Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
My name is Elizabeth, which has any number of nicknames. I've been called Beth, Betty, Eli, Lizzy and Liz, but my only accepted nickname is Biz. Some people prefer not to call me Biz and choose Elizabeth, which is fine because that's my name. But on occasion, there are people who just decide to assign me another nickname of their preference. Usually, I can correct it immediately (“Actually, it's Biz. Yeah, I know, still using a childhood name at 35 years.”)
While for the most part these new forms are unwelcome, I have to admit I've occasionally accepted different nicknames for different reasons: "La Eli" when I was in Spain because I'd rather not be called "Bees", “Liz” by a terrifying high school history teacher (who I wouldn't dare correct), “LizBiz” by the ski team teacher (who, overhearing the history teacher wasn't sure if it was Liz or Biz and would mumble this hybrid perhaps hoping I wouldn't notice—I kept that going for entertainment value), and a couple more people are allowed to call me “Liz” for no particular reason except maybe that they are European and it amused me.
Right now I'm in a pickle. A woman who is pretty smart and powerful wrote me an email addressing me as Liz. We will be in contact more frequently and everyone else in the group knows my nickname except her. I really don't want to embarrass her by not telling her, but I think I'll also embarrass her by telling her. Maybe she already knows and doesn't care. And maybe I should just bite the bullet and accept that people are going to call me whatever the hell they want.
I still haven't figured out how to address this issue by my age. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Here’s the good news: We can solve your work problem very quickly. As someone whose nickname is a weird, made-up version of a real name (“C-A-I-T-Y; ‘cavity’ without the ‘v’”), I have some experience with your predicament. If someone addresses you incorrectly over email, the deftest way to correct them is simply to sign your preferred name when you reply. If someone calls you “Miss Jackson,” you can sign your email “Janet.” If someone calls you “Liz,” you sign it “Biz.”
If you never personally introduced yourself to this woman “who is pretty smart and powerful” (WIZARD???) as “Biz,” my guess is that she thought "Biz" was a nickname only your friends had permission to use. And you don’t say she just a friend. You don’t say she just a friend.
Now that we got that cleared up:
“Biz” is so far down on the list of known nicknames for Elizabeth that it’s basically like you’ve plucked a word from the English language at random, and decided to call yourself that. This particular word happens to consist of some of the letters in your given name, rearranged.
For that reason, saying, “My only accepted nickname is Biz” is like saying “My only accepted nickname is Buttons.” That’s fine that you go by that—we’ll all call you Buttons—but no one is going to guess that /ˈbʌtnz/ is the arbitrary collection of mouth sounds you have chosen to represent you. No one is going to say, “Nice to meet you, Elizabeth—or do you go by Lil Bits?" You can’t get mad that people aren’t remembering to call you by a cat’s name; that’s the risk you take when you make the decision to keep wearing a silly childhood nickname into adulthood.
Some of my relatives still don’t know what my name is. "Caitie"? "Caitlin"? "Cathleen"? Who cares? I know who you mean. Thanks for the savings bond!
It seems to me, Buttons, that you haven’t figured out how to, as you put it, “address the issue,” because, to you, this issue is very compelling. “My-name-is-Elizabeth-but-I-go-by-Biz-but-in-Spain-they-called-me-La-Ellie-and-yes-I-DO-have-European-friends” is your identity. If everyone called you Biz—“MY ONLY ACCEPTED NICKNAME”—without hesitation, what would you talk about? How would people find out you had been to Spain?
If your colleague fails to take the hint after a subtle correction, there’s nothing wrong with (politely) informing her point blank that you actually go by Biz. It only becomes weird and embarrassing if you let her keep calling you by the "wrong" name for months on end and then she finds out your "real" name at a holiday party.
As a rule, though, your name is a much bigger deal to you than it is to other people. Remember this when you feel shy about correcting them (“Oh, you go by Biz? ‘K.”) and the next time you feel tempted to pass off “How to Succeed in Bizness: The Complete Oral History of My Name” as small talk.
I am an avid beer drinker, home brewer, and I also run a small beer blog on the West Coast. Recently, I was having a discussion with my friend about his father who used to brew a strong beer with his own recipe but stopped a few years back. When I asked why his father stopped, my friend said it was because two of his friends died leaving his house while too drunk on the homebrew. I want to ask my friend for the recipe. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
The time to ask for the recipe would have been before you knew the painful backstory of Dead Man's Brew. Now that you know the history, there’s no graceful way to say to your buddy, “Look, I know this recipe was involved in the death of several family friends, but... it would be a huge help to have it on my blog.”
Your friend’s dad didn’t stop brewing his beer because he got tired of doing it one day. He stopped brewing it because he feels it was directly responsible for deaths of two of his friends. Presumably your friend is aware that you are "an avid beer drinker, home brewer, [and] also run a small beer blog on the West Coast." And yet, even as you grilled him about the beer his dad used to brew, and "Why did he ever stop brewing that beer?" and "Hmm, wow, that beer sounds delicious," and "Oh boy, I do sure love talking about and making beer," he didn’t offer to provide you with the recipe.
There are thousands upon thousands of commercially brewed beers made in this country, and a near-infinite number of potential homebrew recipes. Yet you are acting like you are the Woodward and Bernstein of beer bloggers, hot on the trail of the recipe THEY didn’t want you to see. Why do you have to sample this specific brew? Because it exists? Here is a book full of recipes that exist. From an outside perspective, it would seem that your interest in this beer stems from the fact that it will get you FUCKED UP and possibly kill you. In reality, if this guy’s dad was just an amateur home brewer, he probably wasn’t crafting totally inscrutable, complicated beer. We’re not talking aged cognac barrels in northern Sweden; think more: “I call it Ol’ Red’s Ale because we use to have a dog named Old Red. The ingredients are hops, yeast, and half a bottle of Yuengling. I made it till it killed my friends.”
On that note, it’s not clear from your email whether the friends died in some sort of car accident or simply collapsed in the entryway after imbibing the beer. If the latter, perhaps the recipe is for poison?
Either way, you should probably just accept the fact that (unless your friend or his dad one day offers it to you), this is just going to be one of those thousands of recipes you will never taste.
Though we all know the saying “If it bleeds, it leads on the niche beer blog,” there is no delicate way to say to this guy, “That’s so sad your dad’s friends died but also I don’t care. What’s the recipe?”
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here (max: 200 words). Art by Jim Cooke / Image via Getty.