Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Synecdoche Nickname

Oh, to be called "L." It's belittling—literally—and delightfully so.

It's similar to the feeling when someone happens upon my main nickname, Linz, for the first time—I'm caught off-gaurd at how confident the syllable sounds in their mouth, how cavalier of them to call me what they please. When new boyfriends first say "Linz" I want to turn into a cat and rub the side of my face on them.

But L is different than Linz. It fills my heart with a more complicated joy. The first time my name was reduced in this way was in my first real job after college. My boss took to addressing me by L in his emails, as in: "L, do this. Signed, M." It was clear that I was interacting with someone important, someone who didn't have time for details like "indsay" or "ichael." I had never encountered such a person before, and I didn't so much want to rub against him like a cat as I wanted to perform the tasks requested swiftly and satisfactorily. I felt like a robot, a servant, or perhaps a secret agent—in the loop but also subservient.

This was one of the strange and surprising things about entering the professional world—people call each other by letters. There's nothing personal or familiar about the practice, but I can't help but react as if I'm being branded with a fresh new nickname. I start to see the L of me, and it's a different me than the Linz or Lindsay of me.

I suppose branding is what's going on here—a kind of corporate branding. It probably says something about the perversity of the workplace, and symbolizes the reduction of our complex selves into anonymous automatons of the state. But I'm new to all this, and not yet jaded enough to make a statement like that and really mean it.


  1. I understand the desire to want to turn into a cat and rub someone's face when they flatter you with a nickname. But I disagree with your corporate branding take on your boss calling you L.

    My last boss and I called each other 'L' and 'A' but it made me feel the opposite of a subservient spy - it made me feel like I had entered a highly desirable and elusive relationship with my boss - friends. Of course a big difference is that this boss was female, and someone I respected immensely. I craved her friendship and attention and felt that calling me 'A' (she called no one else by their first letter, as far a I knew), not only meant that I had won it, but I had developed a relationship far more intimate and special than her other employees.

  2. Grandma signs everyone of her e-mails with G.