Question For My Readers

April 3, 2009

I have always considered it rude to ask a stranger their name before offering my own. Accordingly, it raises my hackles when someone asks me my name before offering theirs. Is that idiosyncratic?

UPDATE: I’m not talking about on the phone, but in person.


34 Responses to “Question For My Readers”

  1. Dr J Says:

    It is rude to ask someone their name if you say: “what’s your motherfucking name fucko?”.

    Otherwise never thought about it. It does seem polite, if you want to know the other persons name, to offer yours up first, I’ve never had a situation where that hasn’t produced the goods.

  2. Not rude.

    Someone calls your phone, you answer with:


    And there response is:

    “Hi – who is this?”

    Your appropriate response is:

    You called me. Who is this?”

    I think that the same etiquette is true for conversation (though I generally forgo the nasty retort).

    Though there have been occasions where I do ask without first offering my own. It’s when I should know their name but have forgotten. I don’t first offer my own name because it would imply that I think they are equally inconsiderate and forgot my name.

  3. jc Says:

    Pet peeve. It’s a damn caller ID assumption. The caller ass-umes that you already know who’s calling. or that you have a crystal ball.

  4. Not rude. When I’ve taken phone calls that begin with the person calling me asking who I am, I’ve been known to respond: “Who wants to know?” And yes, I have said that to people to their faces, especially in bars when I was a lot younger.

  5. Paul Gowder Says:

    Neither rude nor idiosyncratic. Those who demand your name without first offering theirs are cops, bureaucrats, and collection agents.

  6. yolio Says:

    I think it might be a bit idiosyncratic.

    It is generally polite to offer up your name, but there is an interaction with status. If you are interacting with an equal, then it is best to offer equal opportunity to know one another’s names. If you have a clear status hierarchy, then then higher status person has no obligation to explain themselves, and it would be very rude for the lower status person to demand a name without offering up their own first. Example, a judge in a courtroom can demand your name without explaining theirs. A teacher in a school can ask students names without giving theirs. A property owner may ask the name of a person on their property without being rude. If a student walks up to a university professor and asks their name without first offering their own, it is rude.

    Probably what you are responding to is people who should treat you like a peer, but instead address you like an inferior. They are status-topping you, and rude is only one of the things that this is.

  7. but there is an interaction with status. If you are interacting with an equal, then it is best to offer equal opportunity to know one another’s names. If you have a clear status hierarchy, then then higher status person has no obligation to explain themselves…

    It’s shit like that that drove me to communism.

  8. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    I do both. Sometimes I’ll ask what their name is first. Sometimes I’ll say, “Hi, I’m PGIV. What’s your name.” Usually, there is some follow-up small talk, so no one really remembers who said what in those situations. Shrug.

  9. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    Grr. Instead of “their,” I meant he or she.

  10. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    his/her. I’m going back to my drinks now.

  11. Miz Manners (D) Says:

    No, it’s not idiosyncratic. When you approach someone, it’s polite to introduce yourself to them. If someone approaches you, they should introduce themselves to you.
    I don’t think most Americans are well versed in formal etiquette any longer, so don’t let it get too far under your skin. And reward those who do make the effort.

  12. D Says:

    And before someone corrects my bloody grammar, I used the plural because it’s easier than doing the whole himself/herself thing. Except that now it’s not. Bleh.

  13. eb Says:

    You walk up to whoever and say, “Hello, my name is bloviating douchebag. How do you do?”

    To walk up to someone and ask what their blovating douchebag name is without giving your bloviating douchebag name would be very rude indeed.

  14. Was this prompted by the BitchPhD post? Because yeah, if a guy on the street asked my name without giving me his, I would give him the stare-down. Or maybe my name, in an icy voice that let him know he was not likely to get any further.

    As yolio says, it’s more acceptable if it’s a high-status person–e.g. if Famous Scientist notices me hovering at a conference, s/he could reasonably ask me my name–but I would still think it was cooler if s/he offered a name first.

  15. People are uncouth! It is most polite to offer one’s own name first if one is initiating contact.

  16. caostaff Says:
    Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922.

    Chapter II.


    The younger person is always presented to the older or more distinguished, but a gentleman is always presented to a lady, even though he is an old gentleman of great distinction and the lady a mere slip of a girl. 2
    No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man.
    In introducing a gentleman to a lady, you may ask Mr. Smith if he has met Mrs. Jones, but you must not ask Mrs. Jones if she has met Mr. Smith!


    This is never done on formal occasions when a great many persons are present. At a small luncheon, for instance, a hostess always introduces her guests to one another.

    You must never introduce people to each other in public places unless you are certain beyond a doubt that the introduction will be agreeable to both.

  17. bikemonkey Says:

    dood, there are bigger problems in the world to worry about..

  18. Give them a fake name. That’ll throw off the cops, bureaucrats, and collection agents.

    How about they knock on my office door, enter, and ask “are you Dr. Anonymous?” Jeee-ZUS.

  19. chezjake Says:

    Slightly OT. I’m lousy at remembering names. I have a button that I wear to large gatherings that says “I don’t remember your name either.”

  20. leigh Says:

    when introducing myself, i generally will state “hi, i’m leigh” and extend my hand for a handshake. though, it doesn’t bother me much when people ask my name first. i think the younger trainees are probably more likely to be the ones asking your name first, say, at a big meeting. we’ve probably read a zillion papers by dr. bigshot, but have never seen her face. so we might approach her and ask if she is dr. bigshot, for the sake of having some way to start a conversation with someone so amazing. it’s probably backwards and stupid…

  21. I cannot even think of how it could EVER be appropriate to ask someone for their name. It would always sound like this: and who are YOU??

  22. lol Says:

    “And you are……..?”

  23. Julia Says:

    What if you go, “Oh, sorry, what’s your name? I’m PhysioProf.” That’s why I do (though I don’t say PhysioProf, obv), because when I meet someone it’s usually at a party or poster session or the coffee shop, and we have a conversation for a while before the topic of names even comes up.

    Of course, I usually follow it up a few minutes later with, “Sorry, I know you just told me, but what was your name again?”

  24. mir Says:

    I always forget shit, I mean absolutely everything. So if I’ve seen them before (or been introduced eight or nine times, as is likely) and yet don’t recall their name I’ll say “I’m sorry I know we’ve been introduced eight or nine time but I’m a barely functional weenie and don’t recall your name”.

    If it’s a first-timer, I offer my name first, natch.

  25. sandy Says:

    No, it’s not indiosyncratic, to my mind.

    I am always introducing myself to people I’ve already met, precisely because I would think it rude to just ask their name without assuming that they must also have forgotten mine. (“I’m Sandy, and I think we’ve met but I’m sorry I can’t remember your name.” Sometimes they say “Oh, that’s OK” — but then don’t tell me their name. Joke’s on me I guess.)

    Likewise, people shouldn’t ask my name without assuming I’ve forgotten theirs as well. But this doesn’t happen very often. I think most people just keep their mouths shut and ask someone else later, “who was that again?”

  26. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    I am totally behind Mich St. now. Go Huskies!!

  27. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    Bleh. Spartans. You know, actually, this whole time I was behind the Blue Devils. Brackets blown to hell, indeed. I so do not want Carolina to win, despite Obama backing them. And yes, I am drunk.

  28. Instead of “their,”

    Because “his or her” (or any variant thereof) is recognized as frequently cumbersome, it’s now acceptable to use “their” as a gender-neutral singular possessive pronoun.

    ‘Course, you’re all drunk. And mostly fucked, brackets-wise. So I do not expect ye to care. I love you guys! (For real. No sarcasm.)

    P.S. Not idiosyncratic.

  29. If someone demands your name without offering theirs first the only fitting name to proffer is “Haywood. Haywood Jablome”.

  30. anon Says:

    Its also cultural.
    Where I live, you would NEVER ask someone their name outright. This is regarded as extremely impolite.
    Usually, one of you would begin with “So, where are you from?” And then move to “Oh, are you related to the Bedlam family or the Flossing family?”. All polite ways of getting to the pint where someone will volunteer the information that their name is, in fact, Furrball or whatever. In this culture, the individual is a small and relatively unimportant part of a web of relatedness, so not something that you would begin with generally speaking.

  31. chris y Says:

    Rude face to face. On the phone, depends on context. I often have to call people at work who might have a shared number, so when somebody picks up and just says hello, “Am I speaking to Anne Elk?” is the only way way forward. And this is basically just a circumlocution for “Who the fuck are you?”

  32. i alwasy answer my phone at work with my name – and when i get home for 20 minutes i do the same thing

    then again i always dial a nine when i get home — where is area code 912?

  33. LOL! Yes prof.that’s just a tad bit idiocentric. But that’s what I love about you. You wouldn’t be you without these issues. 🙂

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