Friday, June 25, 2010

What's in a Name? (Part 2)

Last week I was volunteering with a project called Lose the Training Wheels, as a bike spotter. Their were about 15 of us volunteers, working together for a week. We had about thirty minutes of downtime between sessions. Almost none of us knew each other at the start of the week, but we developed the sort of easy break-room relationships that come with any project like this. We'd chat about sports scores, or colleges, or how well our riders were learning. Sometimes, we'd kick around a soccer ball or shoot some hoops.

But that's not what this post is about. Here, I mean to ponder the following phenomenon.

There was another Matt in the group. A Matthew, rather than a Mattathias, but we were both going by Matt. This caused the standard confusion on the first day ("Matt, you'll be working with Nathan... Oh shoot, there are two Matts.) This is fairly common, but what happened next is interesting.

The other Matt, it was clear, felt an instant connection because of our shared name. For the rest of the week, when he came in, the first thing he'd do was greet me with a "How's it going, Matt?" and a wide grin. During breaks, he'd come over to talk. Besides the name and the interest in volunteering, we didn't have much in common, but that didn't seem to matter to him.

Matt was friendly with everyone, but obviously felt that there was significance to our fellow Matt-hood. I don't think I felt it nearly so strongly as he did, perhaps because being a Mattathias has always made me feel different from other Matts, especially Matthews.

So what is it then, that makes a shared name feel like a shared nature?

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