Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's in a name?

There are a number of words that we speak which are completely unintelligible if they are removed from their original context. For example, a recent post of mine used the acronym "RSM," while noting that it could stand for a variety of things, including the Russian School of Mathematics and Remote Site Management. In my case, I was referring to the California community of Rancho Santa Margarita.

In the same way, names of people can often be confusing when taken out of context. While there are people who have very unique names, there are some names that are more common than we can imagine. I could use a particular name with one audience, and they would know exactly who I was talking about. I could use that same name with an entirely separate audience, and they would also know exactly who I was talking about - even though I would be talking about an entirely different person.

Here are a few examples, starting with PaintPRO:

Robert “Rob” Scoble has been named vice president, sales and marketing at Hyde Tools Inc. Scoble’s responsibilities include oversight of the sale and marketing of paint, drywall, wallcovering and other hand tools sold worldwide through retailers, distributors and catalogs.

Scoble comes to Hyde Tools with a strong background in business development and operational improvement programs. As senior vice president and COO for a $70 million privately held company, he increased revenues and operating income and was responsible for functional management and 1,300 employees. He has also taken one corporation through a classic turnaround that included a major branding initiative, “quick-fixed” the operating income of an acquired organization, merged business units, reversed declining sales, increased sales and reengineered strategic business units.

Or how about this biography from the RIS Consulting Group web page?

John Sculley, Vice President & Managing Director

At RIS Consulting Group since 1995, John Sculley designs and leads all RIS advisory, research and change management projects for corporate relocation programs and related services. He was formerly a vice president at a major relocation management company and at an international consulting firm, specializing in corporate location decisions and economic development. He was also executive director/CEO of a major Connecticut not-for-profit. He is the recipient of the Certified Relocation Professional designation (1990), the Meritorious Service Award (1997) and the President’s Award (2006) from the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council. He currently serves on the ERC’s national Task Force on Mobility Procurement and on the Board of Directors for the New England Relocation Association. A graduate of Bucknell University, John lives in New Milford, Connecticut. He and wife Mary have three daughters and a grandson.

Now I'm sure that someone or another has walked up to the Hyde Tools guy and asked him about FriendFeed. And I bet that the RIS consultant has been asked about his favorite computer, or his favorite soft drink.

But I shudder to think of the questions that this guy is asked:

John M. Bredehoft

John is a partner in the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group of Kaufman & Canoles. His practice emphasizes litigation and litigation-avoidance strategies, and regularly includes discrimination and harassment matters, executive contracts, trade secret and computer crime cases, and advice and litigation on covenants restricting post-employment competition.

So if anyone wonders why I sometimes use my middle initial on my online's to spare this guy some grief.
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