There’s an interesting thing when people think I’m Mike. Or perhaps it’s interesting when people think my name is Mike.
My name is four letters. Three are the same as Mike. The last is an A, however. The best guess I’ve ever been able to make has been that people read ‘MIK…’ and their brains absolutely stop. This has been a problem my entire life, in and out of tech support, from school to work to everything in between. I was called ‘Mike’ at my SATs, much to the hilarity of my classmates.
But I rarely correct people these days, certainly not when I’m online, because it’s one of those things that really only matters if we meet in person. In person, I will correct you. “Actually it’s Mika. With an A.” I’ll always be polite when you ask me how to pronounce it. The first time. The second and third time get you teased. At four or five, there will be serious remarks. At seven, I start intentionally mispronouncing your name.
Since most of my communication, even with my own coworkers, is online, and since there’s a fellow named Micah (pronounced the other way), I really give people a pass with mucking up my name. It happens and if it’s not intentional or obstinance, I don’t mind.
At the same time, I like to keep track of places where I’m more often called Mike. I try to make sense of the madness just to understand the world a little more. While all of this is anecdotal, and while I did make a scratch sheet where I tallied these things over the course of 4 months, this is not some government funded study. The numbers are also off if I’ve been talking to people from countries where Mika is a normal name, and moreso in Japan, where it’s a girl’s name.
When am I Mika or Mike?
So here’s the non-scientific notes I’ve boiled things down to:
- If I do technical things really, really well
- When I talk code/development
- When I talk about my wife
- When someone is incredibly upset for whatever reason
I have no name…
- When I do technical things really wrong
- When I disagree with developers
- When I apologize to people
I’m Mika …
- When someone realizes they’ve been wildly out of line and apologizes to me
- When someone has been really personable and polite the whole time
- When I talk to someone who consistently uses proper grammar and punctuation
What Does This Tell Me?
It’s important to note that the ‘technical’ things I do well or not don’t actually have to be correct. Many times I do the code things really well and they just disagree. But if I’m perceived to be correct, I’m generally a Mike.
When people are angry they tend to stop reading well, the comprehension goes out the door. That lends some credence to my theory that people’s brains stop. Strangely, though, when I get things really, really, wrong (or am perceived to do so), the use of any name in their replies plummets. Like I found three in a year. It’s possible that those people, still being angry, are reading my name as ‘Mike’ but cannot find it in themselves to be angry at a male name in the manner they’re about to be.
As for me talking about my wife, that’s just heteronormativity in action, and for the matter of this study I ignored it. It skewed results. It’s the same with folks who are from Scandinavia, where Mika is a boy’s name.
People still often default to thinking everyone’s male.
I too have this flaw, I admit. But seeing it in others and how it impacts me certainly makes me think about it more.