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20-40-60 Etiquette: What's my name?

Reader has been calling woman by the wrong name for 14 years. [Thinkstock photo]

Reader has been calling woman by the wrong name for 14 years. [Thinkstock photo]

QUESTION: Have you ever called someone by the wrong name? How about for 14 years! I attend a work out class that I've called a woman by the wrong name. Yesterday, I was finally told her real name. What should I do now? I'm embarrassed! Thoughts?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Of course, I have called someone by the wrong name! For 14 years? Not that I know of — ha!! I've had someone at work call me by the wrong name. I never corrected him because it really made me laugh and put a smile on my face. Just apologize and laugh with her!

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Anyone who calls someone the wrong name for that long clearly didn't know it or hear it right in the first place. It is too bad the person didn't correct you, creating a brief moment of embarrassment on both your parts. In a weird way, doing that is better that constantly hearing the right name and then forgetting what it is soon afterward, only to be corrected again and again. So forgive yourself and apologize if you can. You're not alone, even if the length of time is unusual. We all get mixed up on names sometime; I think that is part of being human. And then we fumble through and try to do better the next time.

HELEN'S ANSWER: It is very embarrassing to call someone by the wrong name, let alone do it for years. People call me by the wrong first name and the wrong last name (that one is understandable because my last name changed.) Usually I just laugh and pretend I don't hear it or tell them that I answer to all names.

And I have done the same. Two darling people with the names Lucinda and Cinda have received the wrong names from me numerous times, and I didn't even know it for a long time. When I realized it, I apologized very badly. But both women were gracious, and I never forget who they are now.

We all make mistakes and how lucky we are that people forgive us. Do let the woman know you now realize you have been mistaken and that you want her to know it was not intentional.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Christina Nihira, city volunteer: You are not alone in calling someone the wrong name. It happens more often than you probably realize.

Take me, for instance. My name ends in an A. It frequently becomes an E (Christine), shortens to just Christin or some other variation. I usually just let it go the first few times unless there's an important reason to be exact.

However, calling someone by their proper name is important because it conveys respect.

We all make mistakes. Move on and stop beating yourself up. Now is the time for atonement.

There are many options on how to “apologize” for your gaffe. If you are a verbal person, take her aside after class, explain the situation and maybe grab coffee. Treat her to lunch or dinner. Of course, you could always write an honest note and deliver it to class with a small plant. Ultimately, whatever you choose it will be heartfelt and sincere.

At the end of the day, you can never have enough friends.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email