A convenient handle

Confession: Name tags confuse me. I can never quite see the point of them.

name tag

They seem to be made for the purpose of avoiding surface introductions and cutting right to the heart of the matter, such as discussing the weather, say, or the quality of the coffee. However, they do not work. They are usually written in too small a script, or too fancy, or too faint—at the very least in unfamiliar handwriting—so that they do not produce enlightening information for my neighbor, but simply the compulsion to squint at my bosom and say, “So, you are—?”


Since the first syllable is all they can decipher, I always help them out before they drag it on too long without taking a breath and pass out cold on the floor. I am not so good at resuscitation and would hate to start now.

“I’m Shari Zook,” I say—which rather defeats the purpose of the name tag but is quite obviously begging to be said—and brace myself for their next words, which are nearly always “Ah! Are you related to my friend Marvin Zook?”

(Or Miriam Zook, or Martha Zook, or Michael Zook, ad infinitum)

At this point I smile politely and carefully explain that ten years ago I married into an Oregonian branch of Zooks, which is almost entirely if not wholly unconnected to any Zooks around here. I am not sure why I feel the need to explain this. Next time I think I shall say severely “No, my dear, I am not! And if you ask me one more time I shall almost certainly lose my temper.”

Now having settled the matter of my name, the squinting at my place of origin begins…

Name tags!

On the other hand, they undoubtedly lend us an air of distinction and grandeur, if tastefully done. Also if we are good readers they may be useful for drive-by identifications, finding out why that lady looks so familiar while pretending to be simply walking past on our way to the bathroom. Yes, they have their virtues. Perhaps they are worthwhile after all, though I cannot be sure; and you must agree they are confusing.

My own is most confusing of all. I become suddenly uncertain of what this Shari Zook tag is all about, concerned that we may have tacked it on abruptly so we had a sort of convenient handle by which to catch hold of me, and it may not be getting near the core of the matter at all–?


Name tags.

Could you please just call me Cordelia?


I just returned from a super-lovely weekend with super-lovely name tags. I saw some of you there, and your words of encouragement were sweet. Cheers!

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Janelle Glick
10 years ago

as always when finishing reading your blogs, I am having my best laugh of the day. You are so delightfully funny. I think the best purpose of name tags is to remind us all that we belong to whatever event for which we wear the tag. It’s not really about our names at all – but that all-consuming need to belong. 🙂 Maybe my name tag will help you prove to the courts that I didn’t show up for our lunch date? I still want that story…

10 years ago
Reply to  Janelle Glick

And I want to tell it!

This was my one big disappointment from the weekend–I wanted to talk more with you. I forgot we were getting lunch “to go,” and while I was hanging around waiting to snag you I found you were in a meeting. 🙁 Bum. Do you want to come visit us?

10 years ago

I was once on the registration committee for the Beachy ministers’ meetings. We decided to forgo name tags for some of the reasons you mentioned. The ministers had a fit. They said name tags help them remember names of people they are supposed to know, and save them the embarrassment of asking when they ought to have remembered.

Like Janelle, I so often get a good chuckle out of your blog posts. 🙂

Ina Lapp
10 years ago

Hmm…maybe we CAN skip the name tags. 🙂 It was great having you there, name tag and all!

10 years ago

You make me laugh!

I’m one that likes name tags. I am such a visual learner that you can verbally tell me your name a dozen times and I will still forget it. But if I SEE it. Then I will probably still forget your name, but at least I may possibly remember it the next time I see you.

Which, I hope, is next year! So good to see again this weekend!

P.S. But of course, there is no way I’ll forget your name, since I see it visually, here, nearly every day!

10 years ago

Name tags belong on dog collars and in wax museums. The awkwardness of forgetting a name you should know is only a mite less than squinting at bosoms.

10 years ago
Reply to  josh nisley

Preach it, bro.

10 years ago

Having worn, printed, declined, and squinted at name tags, I am well acquainted with their sorrows. The font must be small enough to accommodate Methuselah Herschberger Jr as well as Jo Fry. Inequities abound.

However, I must disagree with mr. nisley above and argue in favor of name tags in children’s ministries. Somehow “Hey you!” doesn’t carry the weight of “Zyvel!” (truly) when one must arrest the flight of a tousle-headed bundle of energy.

Name tags involve identity and belonging in funny ways. I didn’t like wearing one at FB because I didn’t want to belong that much. And one time I edited my badge because the event organizer Who Shall Remain Unnamed identified my hometown as Guys Mills instead of Meadville. I fought for the 9 miles of distance.

One thing I like about commenting on your blog is that I don’t have to be going anywhere with my comment. So.

10 years ago

I always think of you when I’m asked to wear a name tag. At times I decline wearing it, just in honor of you.
While I am fine with my first name and last name, I dislike seeing them together on a name tag. Non-traditional meets traditional.
Funny comments from Dutch folks….
“Now, I know a lot of Stoltzfuses but I don’t think I ever heard of a Shaunda (!!??) Stoltzfus before. Hmmmm…. now where are you from???”

10 years ago

Why of course Anne with an E we will just call you Cordelia. 🙂
You make me laugh, I have never thought of name tags in this light. 🙂
At the ladies seminar it was so nice when they had a nicely printed up tag for everyone. In earlier years when each was to write their own name on a sticky tag… Not so nice, some writing was so scrawling forget trying to decifer at a passing glimpse.

10 years ago

I have always had the same thoughts about name tags, but have always been grateful for them because they allow those “drive-by identifications.” I’m one of those people who can’t remember names!

I just finished reading the Anne series, and had to laugh at the Cordelia reference. Actually I just had to laugh at the whole thing! Great post.

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