Ask Miriam | What’s in an (Autocorrected) Name?

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Dear Miriam,

I sent someone an email in a professional context and signed it with my slightly-unusual-but-very-Jewish first name. The person wrote back, but addressed the email to an Americanized version of my name. It’s no secret that autocorrect is a scourge on modern life, and I suspect that could be to blame. Still, what’s the correct way to respond? And as long as I’m asking, email is one thing, but what to do when this same thing happens in person?


Don’t Change My Name

Dear Name,

Autocorrect almost certainly is to blame for such a thing, and only one of the problems with autocorrect is what it does to people’s names. Nonetheless, we are all responsible for the emails that we send, and the sender certainly should have given the message a once-over to be sure that there were no glaring errors. And yes, addressing your message to the wrong person is a glaring error, when nearly all of us have our names in our email addresses.

While autocorrect may be careless with names outside the mainstream, I don’t think it’s particularly focused on messing up Jewish names, and I’m sure the person meant no harm. This is a case of carelessness not maliciousness. When you write back, there’s no need to call attention to the mistake. Rather, just sign your name as you normally would, and leave it at that. 

If there are further exchanges and the other person realizes and apologizes, say, “No problem” and move on. If there are more exchanges where your name continues to be wrong and you expect to meet this person in person, you could say something like, “I’m sure this is just a problem with technology, but I wanted to make sure you had the correct spelling of my name for your records,” or something that lays no blame. 

If a similar mistake happens in person at a coffee shop, don’t worry about it at all. You could consider a “Starbucks name,” which is an easy to spell, say and hear name that you use with strangers when ordering drinks. Or you can repeat yourself a few times until the barista gets it right, but it’s probably too much effort all around. 

However, if by “in person” you mean at a professional networking event or a social dinner or anywhere else where it matters to know the person to whom you’re speaking, speak up, and the sooner the better. After two mistakes, say, “Oh, excuse me, my name is Yitzchak.” Be willing to spell it and to acknowledge that, yes, it’s uncommon. Beyond that, consider answering one other question about the origin of your name, and then redirect the conversation.

Being on the receiving end of something annoying like this is always a good reminder of behaviors I want to avoid doing myself. Moving forward, be extra conscientious of double-checking your own emails and try to avoid scrutinizing people’s names publicly, privately or over email. 

Be well,



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