Etiquette Daily

Tactful Talk: How to inquire about name origins

October 24, 2018 0 Comments

Q: A new colleague at work has an unusual last name.  I asked her what nationality it was, and she told me.  Then a coworker pulled me aside and said the question was offensive.  I disagreed.  Who’s right?

A: You are-assuming you phrased your question in a way that showed respectful interest: “I’ve never heard your last name before.  It’s really interesting.  What is it’s origin?”  But if you had asked in a voice that sounded judgemental-“What kind of name is that?”-then your question would have been offensive.  So the old adage applies:  It’s not just what you say that counts-it’s also the way you say it.

name origin

October 25, 2018