The Rock Paper Cynic comic titled “That Awkward Zombie Apocalypse Survival Moment When…” would soooo happen to me.
I really am awful; I usually need to meet a new person at least two or three times, within a short period of time, before I can guarantee that I’ll remember their name. Running into a brand new acquaintance, or someone I only see once or twice a year, will often cause me to go completely blank. Luckily (?), Mr E Man has the exact same problem; this means we both quickly recognise the signs that one of us is desperately trying not to have to introduce the other to someone, and will just introduce ourselves in the hope of eliciting the other person’s name in return. When I’m not with Mr E Man and am desperately trying not to have to introduce the person whose name I really should know to a friend or colleague who doesn’t instantly recognise my problem, things often end very awkwardly indeed. It’s really very embarrassing.
There may be hope, though – not that I can suddenly magically learn to remember names, but that a simple linguistic shift could mitigate my embarrassment.
You see, I was listening to an old episode of the excellent A Way With Words podcast recently, in which the presenters and listeners were contributing words from other languages and English dialects that don’t have an equivalent in standard English, but that really should because they’re so incredibly useful. One such word was tartle, defined as follows by Urban Dictionary:
A common Scottish term to insert at the awkward moment when you temporarily forget someone’s name. Useful to avoid that occasional embarrassment.
Steve: Hi, Susan!
Susan: Hi . . . uhhhhhh . . . Steve! Sorry, I tartled there for a moment.
Now, I lived in Glasgow for three and a half years and never heard this word once, but hey, let’s ignore that inconvenient little fact (not to mention the unsavoury Irish definition at the same link) and work on a strategy to get the Scottish definition into common usage in every English-speaking country. Having a universally understood term specific to this problem would make it so much more socially acceptable; “sorry, I’m tartling” just seems so much more understandable and less disrespectful – something that could and does happen to anyone! – than “sorry, I just can’t remember your name”.
Joining my campaign might even save your life in the event of a zombie apocalypse…
UPDATE: it has been decreed that the online version shall heretoforth be known as Twartling