If you had a superpower, what would it be? Somehow this came up as a conversation piece with a Barista at the Coffee Angel in Edinburgh. He told me he had the power to wave the extra charge for using paywave for amounts below £5. I told him that was a cool power, but I would probably choose something else if given the choice. He agreed, and said he had always wanted an invisible monkey tail that could go through anything. I granted him his wish.
The super power I have always wanted is a little more boring, but I think very powerful. I would love to be able to know everyone's name. Even better, I would like to know everyone's preferred name, along with the preferred pronunciation. A friend named Tota once introduced himself to someone who replied, 'I am sorry, is there a short version of that?'. That tends to be another way of saying you didn't quite catch it. There is another one. 'How do you spell that?'. I particularly enjoy the expression on people's faces when I spell out, 'B... L.... A... C... K...'.
The poor Baristas at Starbucks get the worst of it. I resorted to calling myself Bob after getting variations such as Tevor, Travor, Trivur, Travo, Trivor and the like. Trevor is a Welsh name. It means 'The Rock'. More truthfully, it means prudent or reliable. That brought a few chuckles when I started learning Xhosa in Cape Town. Prudence is actually a relatively common Christian name in South Africa. Christian names came about when we of the lighter tanned variety decided we couldn't pronounce names so would give new names to make things easier. For us of course.
I am unfortunately also of the almost monolingual variety. I can speak Afrikaans, but am only really comfortable when I have had a few drinks. Until then, I am very aware of how much I am stumbling over words and searching for ways to express myself. As someone who is fond of wordplay and banter, not being able to get the right meaning across switches my character off. The problem is as an English speaker you forget that most other speakers are speaking their third or fourth or fifth language. They have even changed their name for us! A little humility is perhaps in order.
Names are important. I realised that I have a much warmer reaction to people who call me Trev. One of my closest friend's kid calls me 'Uncle Trevy'. I love it. When someone calls me Trev, it makes me feel like they like me. I like it when people like me. I like them back. Perhaps it is subtle, but when someone calls me 'Trevor', (which to be fair, is my name) it feels very formal. Call me Trev and it feels like we have history. Even if it is the first time we have met. If your name happens to be Gail or Dale, you can call me Donkey. I like that too.
Names matter. Pronunciation matters. Words matter. It may seem like a silly super power, but like Batman (who doesn't actually have any superpowers) you can actually gain it with some effort. All you have to do is pay attention.