What to do When You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name


Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash

Clara Wheeler, Humor Writer

Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash
Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash

Uh oh. That person sees you again. You know the one, the nice young woman who knows your name but you have absolutely no idea who she is. Where do you know each other from? A shared class? Club activity? One night stand? She smiles at you and greets you by name. “Hey you,” you say before you pass each other. Are you tired of these awkward interactions? Stressed out by your own faulty memory? Let us here at The Wire give you an easy, four-step course to greeting everybody comfortably by name.

Step 1. Recognize the problem. Once you have realized that this person knows more about you than you do about them, you need to get past that awful first interaction so that you can figure things out later. Remember, it is essential that you never, ever admit defeat, and ask the person directly what their name is.

Step 2. Does anyone else know who that is? After the person has safely passed you by, grab the nearest bystander, point at the person and ask if they know that person. If the bystander seems puzzled or does not know, try repeating the question slower and louder until they answer you. If that worked, great! You’ve cut this four-step course right in half. If not, have no fear and get ready for Step 3.

Step 3. Try following them around! Maintain a proper following distance of at least six inches at all times. Maybe you will hear somebody else say their name, or at least you will learn more about them that you can use that to your advantage later. Next time they greet you by name, try responding with their home address, then ask how their dog, Marbles is doing with its severe case of canine diabetes. They will be totally amazed, and any suspicions that they might have had about you not knowing their name will be belayed, giving you more time for Step 4.

Step 4. Lure them to an improv show, and then ask the crowd for suggestions for the name of a person that has brown hair, say, parted to the left and a sick dog named Marbles. That person will marvel at the coincidences present in improvised theater and shout out their own name. Bam! Nailed it.

There you have it. Four easy steps to learning anybody’s name without making you look like a forgetful asshole. And remember, if all else fails, try calling them Emily. The odds are in your favor.