Over the past few days I have been contemplating a new blog post about Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, selfishness, celebrity and my Grandma’s last few years- plus whatever else my brain connects with any of that. It is interesting what crosses my mind as I clean warehouse bathrooms and vacuum a Call Centre. I’ve also been thinking about an acquaintance’s suggestion that I am a name-dropper. And yes, I am more interested in this person’s accusation than the same one leveled at me by a small-time radio host who clearly projects their own insecurities.
Although some people apply that label to anyone who mentions their connection (genuine or not) with people of note, I am pleased to see dictionaries ranging from the traditional Cambridge to the more populist Urban Dictionary continue to recognize the additional judgement attached to the term. To acknowledge one’s connection to a person of note may well be merely a statement of fact; one of my instructors at the local Community College is a cousin of Liza Minnelli but says so only when asked directly.
The ingredient necessary to go from Namer of Names to Dropper of Names is either (or both):
* the person claims a significantly closer relationship to the person of note than what exists;
* the person inserts the Name(s) of Fame into a conversation where it has no relevance;
and most often does so “in order to achieve a self-gratifying level of social acceptance and/or ego boost” as noted in the first definition found at the above-linked Urban Dictionary.
For example, in the movie Monster-in-Law Jane Fonda’s character responds to Jlo seeing a photo of Jane and Oprah by acknowledging that she knows her. Not name-dropping. On the other hand, when Jane’s character is leading the conversation at a dinner table she says “So there I was sitting next to the Sultan of Brunei with Maureen Dowd, Carrie Fisher and Snoop Dogg” in a story that involves only the Sultan and Snoop. Arguably not namedropping to mention those two but adding Maureen and Carrie’s names clearly qualifies.
Of course whether one finds name-dropping to be offensive is a personal decision. For that matter, one may decide that mentioning any connection to Names of Note is pretentious while someone else enjoys any opportunity to learn something from such a story.
And a somewhat parallel situation is the term ‘name-calling’. Imagine if you will that your parent comes out on the porch and calls for you. Presumably to come wash up for dinner (yes, an image from another era; kids willingly playing outside without electronic gadgets and then sitting down with the rest of the family for a meal). They are calling your name, but most people would not say they are calling you names. Name-calling clearly refers to “the act of insulting someone by calling them rude names,” as the Cambridge dictionary puts it.
Oh- that post mentioned in the first line above is still being mulled over- stay tuned.