Calling names…was Dale Carnegie right?

Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” He’s right.  Well, maybe. It depends on the situation and it serves us well to recognize the power of names…all names.

My nickname growing up was DeeDee, a name gained from a niece who could not pronounce “Dion” as a kid; she is only three years younger than me, so I was a kid, open to nicknames, when she was at the age learning how to speak. DeeDee became D for some family members. Those were well and good, but then came the name that always catches my attention and warms my heart:  Dad.

Now that there are three Dions in the clan, though we each have different middle names, it is not unusual to hear “Dion” called out at family gatherings.  I only respond to the name when a sweet tone is associated with it; I leave the frustrated or irritated sounding “Dions” to my son or grandson to respond to.  I didn’t get this old without getting just a little bit smart.  “Dad” will always turn my head though whenever I hear it, or some of the other variants my sons use, like “Pops” or “Old Man.”

About 28 years after I earned the name of Dad, I reached Deepaw status, though I only gained the name when my first grandchild was looking for a name to call me.  The “Dee” of yore married the old grandfatherly term of “paw” and “Deepaw” was born. A special title indeed, it still comes in second behind the dad-related names.

Those names are for family. I believe we also have other names that hold a special place for us. We learn a lot about others by knowing and recognizing those other names. For many in the medical field, and in academic circles, they seem more concerned about hearing “Doctor” than the personal name that follows, for example.

Decades ago, a friend would sometime address me with “Oh captain, my captain,” as a tip of the hat to the movie Dead Poets Society and the use of Walt Whitman’s poem in the film. That was pretty cool and I don’t ever expect to have someone use that name with me again, though it was more of a salutation than a name, not unlike “Doctor” is not a name although some folks want it used that way.

The non-family name that I miss the most, the one I respond to when watching movies related to the title, the one that stirs up such fond memories and reminiscences, the one that captures a very special time for me in oh-so-many ways is “Coach.”  The first time I was recognized on Father’s Day was before I had any children; it was a community club track team that I coached that gave me a gift that Sunday when we were in Ruston, Louisiana for a track meet. Movies about well-meaning coaches or father-son relationships will almost always bring tears at some point.  

I sometimes wonder how much more empathy, compassion, understanding and love we’d have in the world if we took the time and energy to learn about each other’s other special names and why they are so. Short of that, let’s at least remember Dale’s wisdom.

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