Are you called by the wrong first name regularly?
It might happen if you have same-sex siblings close to you in age or if you look like other siblings in your family.
Some parents increase the odds considerably by giving, close-in-age, same-sex siblings, names that start with the same first letter.
Consider the Zahoruiko’s and the Sydlowski’s on the Amesbury girls’ basketball team. There’s junior Dana Zahoruiko and sophomore Deryn Zahoruiko. A further look turns up junior Meaghan Sydlowski and freshman Morgan Sydlowski.
The included picture of the four of them suggests to me that the confusion over their names doesn’t have to do with visual similarities. It’s the names themselves.
I chatted with AHS coach Chris Perry now in his 19th season about the possible confusion over the names in a recent interview.
“With these two families you have to take things one step further,” he said. “The Zahoruiko’s have an 8th grade sister (Delane) while the Sydlowski’s have a sister (Mollie) who just graduated. Mollie was on the varsity last year.”
That makes three “D’s” for the Zahoruiko’s and three “M’s” for the Sydlowski’s.
Coach Perry told me that he was raised in a family with first-name, first-letter similarity. “My father’s name was Charles. I had three brothers and a sister and everyone’s name started with a “C” except for one brother who was named, “Mark.” Both of my parents are gone now and I never got an explanation for why my brother Mark didn’t get a name starting with “C.”
Chris added that he used to mix up the names of his own three daughters when they were very young. “It happened all the time,” he laughed. “I started calling them “1,” “2,” and “3.” My wife didn’t like that and shut that down right away.”
Being called by the wrong name was something that the Zahoruiko and Sydlowski sisters are quite familiar with. “It happens all the time at home,” said Dana. Meaghan added that for them it happens, “at home and at school.”
Deryn told me that being on the same team with her sister was good. “On the court we work pretty well together.” Off the court? Those of you with siblings can imagine what your answer would have been when served up a setup question like that.
Coach Perry called the Zahoruiko sisters, “basketball junkies.” In the spring, they’re on an AAU team that practices three times a week and plays four-six tournament games on weekends.
For the Sydlowski sisters, this is the first time for both of them on the varsity. “We help each other out because we’re just getting used to the varsity level of play,” said Meaghan. “We also play the same position.”
Freshman Morgan said that she and Meaghan discuss basketball at home. “She helps me figure out the plays.”
How do they respond when called by the last name? Meaghan seemed to best summarize it best – “If they’re looking at you when they say the name, then you guess that they’re talking to you and you just respond as if they had the right name.”
Coach Perry teaches physical education at the Amesbury Middle School. “My confusion with names usually happens there. By the time I have players on teams at the high school I already know them.”
Did that keep him from getting confused with the first names of the Zahoruiko’s or the Sydlowski’s? “I mix them up sometimes,” he admitted, a point that the sisters confirmed with a smile when I interviewed them earlier.
(Should appear in The Town Common on February 4th.)