That’s Not my Name

My name is James Lawther.  I have been called James by my mother from the day I was born.

The name on my birth certificate is Kenneth James Lawther.  This makes me a bit odd, I use my middle name as my first name (so to speak).

Most databases are structured:

  • First Name
  • Middle Initial
  • Last Name

As far as the databases are concerned I am Kenneth J Lawther

As far as I am concerned I am K James Lawther, or as I like to put it James Lawther.

But then it is only my name, what would I know?

Whenever I go to my gym they insist on calling me Ken.  (Who the hell is he?)

If I phone the IT “help desk” at work and tell them my name is James, they have a hissy fit, tell me I don’t work there and shut down all my systems access (no joking)

Try applying for a credit card if Experian and Equifax (the credit rating agencies) don’t know who you are.

As any good bouncer will tell you “If your name’s not down, then you aren’t coming in.”

We rely on the data, but it is wrong.  Most of the time it is not a big issue, but I don’t relish the idea of being admitted unconscious into a hospital

Of course this is all my own fault, If I am stupid enough to call myself by my middle name what can I expect? But I am hardly an exception, have you ever heard of:

I am in (mostly) good company.

Wouldn’t it be polite to change your database to First Name, Middle Name, Last Name, and let your customers tell you which one they prefer?

Then you could call them by their correct name and avoid all the rework, lost business and angst.

A bigger question though is

“if you can’t be bothered to get my name right what does the rest of your database say?”

Read another opinion

Image by Anuj Biyani


  1. Hi James,
    Naming convention in our families seems to be something that we share. I was named Allan Adrian Swinscoe by my parents as my Dad is called Allan. However, I go by the name of Adrian. Couldn’t face the idea of being called Allan Jr or little Allan etc.

    Can’t believe that your IT help desk reacts the way that it does. Blimey!

    However, you are right we should do the work up front and respect peoples preferences. The Pareto principle in action again? Small amount of work to avoid long term pain.


  2. Hello James

    A great point well made.

    If you look deeply you may just find that you and I live in a society where the centre is the worship and adherence to a set of rules. We certainly do not live in a person (human) centric society. Can you imagine the state of the world if we had to treat each customer as an individual and take his unique situation/circumstances into accoun? That is why we invented bureaucracy!

    So instead of being person centric and treated each person as an individual we simply talk about it. And that works because many people think that talking about individuality or customer-centricity is that same as the ‘phenomenon itself’.


    • James Lawther says:

      Thank you for your comments.

      On the positive side, if there was no bureaucracy, I would have to find another line of employment


  3. Peter Gates says:

    Databases that I have used in the past have included a ‘preferred name’ field as an option. This field was often filled in for people from Asia as it was quite common that they had adopted an English name. It also came in handy for you guys who wish to be known by your middle name.

    On the subject of name records in databases, this xkcd comic always makes me smile:

  4. Add me to that list. Richard Matthew Wrye. There are six Richards in the family so we all go by our middle names. Gotta love the family naming convention. Drives me nuts so I swore not to do that to my son.

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