What to Call Me

I seem to have unintentionally caused some confusion in the last entry as to how is the proper way to address me, so in the interest of being helpful, let me attempt to clear things up:

My name is John Scalzi (actually, it’s John Michael Scalzi, II, but that’s not important now). I typically answer to “John” or “Scalzi,” and have no manifest preference to either name — which is to say I will respond equally to both. Which makes sense because both are my name. Please feel free to use either one that you prefer, when referring to or addressing me. If you wish to be formal (say, you don’t know me, or want to borrow money from me), “Mr. Scalzi” works fine. I possess no additional titles, so calling me, say, “Admiral Scalzi” will only lead to confusion.

I have noticed that in casual conversation and in casual reference, most people — even some of my closest friends — seem to address and refer to me as “Scalzi,” even when/if they are discussing other people by their first names (i.e., “we went to dinner with Paul, Jane, Joe and Scalzi”). I suspect that the reason most people use “Scalzi” rather than “John” is that a) generally speaking I’m the only Scalzi in any crowd, which makes it an easy identifier, b) “John” is opposingly generic, and c) “Scalzi” is fun to say; it seems to lend itself to all manner of dramatic methods of delivery (incidentally, I pronounce my last name “skaal – zee”).

Indeed, so pronounced is the general tendency to refer to me as “Scalzi” rather than “John” that if I’m in a crowd and the name “John” is used, I have a tendency to assume that it is being used to refer to some other John. Be that as it may, my first name is “John,” and if you feel more comfortable using “John” instead of “Scalzi,” by all means please use “John.” It’s a fine name, and I like it.

On the matter of “John,” incidentally, if you attempt to use “Johnny” in reference to me, I am not likely to respond to it, since I was never called “Johnny” at any point in my life; my family nickname when I was younger was “John-John” (yes, apparently like JFK, Jr). That nickname has since been retired by me (a 37-year-old man ought not be referred to as “John-John”) and has since been passed on to a nephew. I won’t hate you if you call me “Johnny,” although it will merely serve to accentuate the fact you don’t know me, so I’m not sure why you would want to continue using it anyway. Using “John-John” unless you’re a family member is likewise right out. “Jon” or “Jonathan” are of course entirely incorrect (that’s another name entirely). Calling me “Junior,” because I am the second John Scalzi, is not going to be successful — I was never called it as a kid and wouldn’t find it appropriate now.

On “Scalzi,” the last name itself seems to suffice just fine; I’ve not known people to shorten it in any way, nor would I be likely to respond positively to any attempt to do so. People have been known to adapt “Scalzi” as a prefix to any number of words by dropping the “i” and then jamming “Scalz” in front of any number of words, usually with an exclamation mark implied at the end (“Scalztastic!” “The Scalzinator!” “Scalztronic!” “Scalztacular!”), but these really don’t seem to be enduring sorts of nicknames but rather some sort of variation on the “banana-fofanna” school of being silly. As noted eariler, “Scalzi” is distinctive enough that there’s usually no need to embroider the name.

Possibly because “Scalzi” is distinctive enough as it is, I have no nicknames of any sort. I’m a little old to be gaining any, so unless you have Dubya-like pathological need to assert dominance over other by giving them a dimunitive name that is not their own, I’ll thank you simply to call me by my name (if you do have that sort of pathological need, I’m likely to avoid your company anyway). My wife has terms of endearment for me, but I’m not sharing those, and you wouldn’t be entitled to use them in any event. Sorry.

So, in sum: Call me “John,” call me “Scalzi,” or if you like to be formal, “Mr. Scalzi.” Whichever you are most comfortable with is fine.

57 Comments on “What to Call Me”

  1. So appropriate usage would be “that was a scalztastic explanation of scalzi?” (which is to say, it made me laugh).

    What about “The scalzinator seems to have a deadline to go deadify?”

  2. You know, I can write here and also write the book. I just set limits on the former so I can do the latter. So there. Nyah.

  3. That’s Doctor Professor Admiral Scalzi, Attorney at Law, pal. Because if you’re going to go that route, might as well go all the way.

  4. So I suppose Scalzone would be totally inappropriate, eh?

    From the time I was in high school until I left the military I was mostly called Houck or Houckster. It got to the point that I felt funny being called John. Like you, it would take a moment to register.

    I now prefer John, but never Jonathan or Johnny. I cringe when someone calls me one of those…

  5. Oh man, I had all kinds of gags to put here but they’d all been rinsed by the eigth comment and I’d look kind of tacky now… good work, interweb commenting forefathers!

    One more thing! Scalzone never crossed my mind, but it’s awesome! Hats off. I’m going to buy a mmpb of Old Man’s War and bake it into an Italian pizza wrap with bolognaise and vegetables, just for comedy value!

    … maybe I could photoshop it…

  6. Do guys named John regularly get called Jonathan? Seems obvious that those are two different names, but my view is obviously biased.

    –Jonathan (but often called Jon) Marcus

  7. Quite frequently, I’m afraid. Usually (as John points out) by someone who really doesn’t know you that well.

  8. Would “skaal” in “skaal – zee” be pronounced to rhyme with, say, “stall,” “mall,” and “tall”?

  9. I know what you mean about just noticing how people refer to you. I didn’t make a conscious decision to be Mris until after I noticed that something like 95% of my loved ones (and an equal proportion of merely liked ones) call me that and refer to me that way. Then I just started introducing myself that way to save time. (It’s not due to overwhelming numbers of other Marissas, either. Most other Marissas are over a decade younger than me.)

    As I believe is common with American women, I’ve not really been called by my last name much. I had a teacher who called me Lingen, when I was 15. He seemed to think my full name was Jesus Christ Lingen, though, as in, “Jesus Christ Lingen, I can’t believe you’ve finished that book already!” “Jesus Christ Lingen, what am I going to do with you?” etc. For some reason that didn’t catch on.

  10. if you attempt to use “Johnny” in reference to me, I am not likely to respond to it, since I was never called “Johnny” at any point in my life . . . I won’t hate you if you call me “Johnny,” although it will merely serve to accentuate the fact you don’t know me

    Same here with “Kenny.” I’m amazed at the number of people who do it. It’s puzzling how many choose to try “Kenny” rather than “Ken,” not that “Ken” would get them any farther.

  11. My brother John says you can use any for of John you want, as long as he never has to hear you refer to a toilet as a “john”.

  12. Thanks for clearing this up. I have just refered to you as “Kristine’s Lover” for the past 10+ years. I’ll try “Scalzi” for a bit to see if I can get used to it again.

  13. John, I truly sympathize. I also understand the complete casualness of the use of the name, matched with the unswerving adherence to rules on what to call you to get a response.

    Those kinds of things don’t only happen to guys named John. I often get people tripping over “ph” in my first name (it’s actually “Stephen” which, btw, the actual diminutive is “Phen”, nobody in the US gets that). So much so I normally don’t go by it unless it’s a legal matter. I often get “Stevie.” Only four people in the world are allowed to call me that; my wife (she can call me anything she wants), my Mother (she still has naming rights), my Grandma (she’s dead now) and my sister-in-law (only because I get to call her “Barbie”). Anybody new who calls me that gets a short “that’s-not-my-name” speech and then are placed in a deep hole that they’ll need to dig back out.

    I once went on an interview because they thought my name was “Stephanie.” Good looking woman after good looking woman would go through the office while I sat waiting with my book. My first thought was, “Oh, man, I *so* want to work here.” Then I realized there were no men in the office and I got that sinking feeling as my interview was delayed for an hour.

    And I dare you (I’ll go right to the triple-dog if you like) to pronounce my last name. This is the reason why I am casual about what people call me. When I’m waiting in an office, or at school when they would call the roll, I would respond to “Steve (long pause), uh…” “That’s me!” So if you think you’ve got the name, I’ll now tell you that in the US the “ch” is silent. Go figure.

  14. John, isn’t it Herr Doctor Professor Admiral Scalzi? (grin)

    People tend to assume that I am “Dr. Phil” because of some TV personality that I do not resemble in the slightest (other than basic human upright bipedalism), though unfortunately I do get “his” mail, e-mail and phone calls (and recently an obscene voice mail). Rather I am Dr. Phil because I was annointed by my mentor Dr. Bob in 1989 upon graduation and hooding… (double-grin)

    What’s in a name? For sure, it matters not if you’ve already got a cool name like Shakespeare.

    Dr. Phil

  15. Well Steve, it’s not in the same league, but I’m a bit used to that with “Ciskowski”. Which isn’t really that tough, but I think that people panic with nonstandard names longer than 6 letters.

    And “Dave” is probably up there with “John” in the overly-common name department. When I found myself in a group with three other Daves, I defensively fell back on “Cisko”.

    So Scalzi, I’m with you there.

  16. Unless, of course, you follow up your writing career by moving into television and end up with a late night talk/comedy/variety program with a sycophantic stooge/announcer/sidekick who would introduce you by calling out “And heeeerrree’s Johnny!”

  17. Steve Buchheit:

    “And I dare you (I’ll go right to the triple-dog if you like) to pronounce my last name.”

    I took German for a number of years, so I’m betting I’d have a decent shot at getting in the ballpark.

  18. John, with the German you have a better chance. You would’t believe how many “French” versions I’ve heard over the years. But the “ch” is silent, that gets the majority of the rest. Just as an FYI, it’s Slavic (from a place that is now in Southern Poland) and has nothing to do with books, but a Forest Buch.

  19. I think it’s fair to say that only a true, professional writer can take 745 words (yes, really – 745 words) to say “My name is John Scalzi.”

  20. So I guess calling you hunny-bunny is out too? Dang, you take all the fun out.

    When I was a kid, only my family would call me Annie, but no one else used a nickname (except in Spanish class where we had Spanish psuedonyms). Then, when I was considerably older (>25, I think), friends started calling me by nicknames, Anabanana being the most common. I guess I just mellowed out enough that people started seeing me as a more casual person, instead of formal.

    By the way, new supersecret clubhouse password: Scalztacular!

  21. Brian Greenberg:

    “I think it’s fair to say that only a true, professional writer can take 745 words (yes, really – 745 words) to say ‘My name is John Scalzi.'”

    Actually, I get to “My name is John Scalzi” within 40 words. The rest is merely commentary.

  22. Cisko, my guess would include several “z” sounds. But that’s from living on the Eastside of Cleveland for eight years.

    Actually my family has always pronounced it like it looks (sis-kow’-skee) but I’m guessing you’re close to the original Polish pronunciation. My dad’s been doing genealogical research, and we were surprised to see that the original name before immigration was Ziskowski.

  23. Why are you a “II” instead of a “Jr.”? What’s the difference?

    Probably because he was named for e.g. a grandfather rather than a father.

  24. Cisko, it would have been something aking to “sisz – kow(l)z – skee”. There’s a lot of names with “sizzle” sounds to them up here.

  25. Stephen G is technically correct: “II” is meant to indicate being named for a relative other than one’s own father. Although in my particular case, I was named after my father, who I assume directed that I was to be named “II” rather than “Jr.” on the basis that is sounds better. But inasmuch as first-born male names in our family traditionally skipped generations, this means I was also named for my great-grandfather and for that reason would be technically able to be called “II” as well.

  26. But inasmuch as first-born male names in our family traditionally skipped generations, this means I was also named for my great-grandfather and for that reason would be technically able to be called “II” as well.

    or “III”, no?

  27. Jim’s aunts still call him “Jimmy…” but only his aunts can get away with that.

    I met Jim’s youngest brother, Bill, when he was still pretty young. I got in the habit of calling him “Billy,” particularly since his uncle was also named William. But as “Billy” is now over 40, he blew up at me a few months ago for still calling him Billy…

  28. That’s Doctor Professor Admiral Scalzi, Attorney at Law, pal. Because if you’re going to go that route, might as well go all the way.

    In my mind, at this point in your writing career, you are merely an Ensign in Admiral Heinlein’s navy. I won’t venture to comment on the other titles, Ensign Scalzi. ;-)

  29. You’ve put two songs in my head:

    “My name is (what?), my name is (what?), my name is (what?) John Scalzi!”


    “No, my first name ain’t Johnny. It’s John. Mr. Scalzi if you’re nasty.”

  30. You know, name shortening might, in and of itself, be a phenomenon worthy of blogging about.

    For some reason, the modern english speaking world is fundamentally incapable of abiding any name that is greater than one syllable.

    As little as 50 years ago, this just wasn’t a problem. Now it’s so deeply rooted that some folks have trouble porting a longer name into their long-term memory.

    I’ve worked at a number of places where they asked me if I preferred “Mike” or “Michael.” Since I do marginally prefer Michael (it’s my name, after all), I’d tell them that. Within no time, everyone is calling me Mike. Once the manager who asked me started calling me “Mike” within less than of a minute of asking and being told I preferred Michael!

    So what causes this phenomenon? Is it the fast pace of today’s world, or are we all just getting so stupid and lazy that two syllables is just too much to ask?

    Even monkey’s can use two syllables! (though they have to use hand-signs).

    *whew* Okay. I’m off my soap-box now. Thanks.

  31. I myself am very sensitive when it comes to my real name. When I post on here, which I admit has only been once I go by Ricki. My actual name is Narissa, that has been blasted so many times I could write a book or blog (Michael) about it. I also admit it irritates the hell out of me. It’s like listen to the the words that are coming out of my mouth. My Name Is Narissa. And then I spell it for the really special ones. Obviously I have been called Melissa, and Marissa. But I think the ones that piss me off the most are Nancy, Martha, Marsha. Other wise I go by my actual name. The family I was born into calls me rissa. my new family calls me roo… and which none have to do with the other. And Ricki, well I got that one because somebody who couldn’t say my real name didn’t want to call me rissa. Which Rissa is just child like anyway. There’s my rant for the month, till then I’ll be reading but probably being the quiet little mouse that I am. And no that doesn’t grant permission to call me mouse.

  32. According to my trusty Italian-English dictionary, Scalzo is barefoot, making the plural Scalzi into Barefeet.

    How cool is that? John Barefeet.

    Going the other way Gianni Scalzi has an interesting ring about it.

  33. If you accidentally get an email that starts “Admiral Scalzi” IGNORE IT.

    Sorry about that.

    @Steve: I believe the proper translation is “Barefoots”. Tolkien knew his shit, yo.

  34. actually, it’s John Michael Scalzi, II, but that’s not important now

    So you say,! But I know you’re covering up what you did to the FIRST clone.

    Old Man’s war isn’t all fiction… is it now?

  35. “Bull Scalzi” has a certain nautical jauntiness to it, no?


    /Ken (not “Kenneth”, unless you are making a cheque out to me and not ever “Kenny”–cuz you aren’t my mother)
    (except you, Mom. Hi Mom!)

  36. How about Herr Admiral Doktor Johann von Schcalzeneggar (Mrs.)? Too long?

    Il Scalzi? Too short?

    Me, closest I’ve had to a nickname in the last couple of decades is Midnight Joe. 3rd shift’ll do that to you.

  37. Just a footnote here. The name John-John has not been passed down to a nephew. His name is Jon-Jon. I of course being the the first of our mothers attempts at that name. Since i could not keep it I gave it to my son Jonathon Christopher. (No H in Jon). I wont even get into the Robert/Bobby/Bob/Rob/Robbie thing here today.

  38. (incidentally, I pronounce my last name “skaal – zee”).

    And to think I would have pronounced it “Fountainroydhepplethwaite-smythe”

  39. I have the opposite problem. My name is Fred, not Fredrick. But when people are being formal I keep hearing Fredrick. There’s a woman at work who I’ve let know several times that it’s just Fred. No luck, I’m still Fredrick to her.
    When I was younger my family called me Freddie. When I joined the Navy and moved out into the world I introduced myself as Fred. Well I got a few nicknames but Freddie went by the wayside. Until I hooked back up with the family (specifically one sister) and suddenly I was being called Freddie again. It felt…odd. It took me about half a second to realize that she was actually talking to/about me.

  40. I’ve given up on getting Americans to pronounce my name, so I just tell them to call me Teresa. That’ll get them in the general vicinity. Norén isn’t much of a problem (it’s pronounced pretty much like noreen), but when I still was Wikström, it was difficult. (Good thing I never took my father’s original last name, because Lampsijärvi lacks all kind of internationality.)

    My husband is called Karl-Johan, and there’s absolutely no way you can get his name to flow in an English sentence, since the stress is so very Swedish. He’s KJ, but only in writing and in English.

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