Ryan and Brian were both very common names given to boys born in the latter half of the twentieth century, and it doesn’t take an English professor to tell you they sound really similar.
In the 1980s, Ryan was the 14th most popular boys name in the US, while Brian ranked 16th. Add in the less popular spelling of Bryan at #51 and you’ve got a lot of people with very similar names. If you’ve ever worked in an office with more than a couple dozen people, you’ve undoubtedly run across multiple people named Ryan or Brian, thus creating mass confusion.
How does one overcome this dilemma of addressing the correct Ryan or Brian? And if your name is Ryan or Brian, how do you cope with people constantly mishearing your name, or someone calling your name but intending to speak to a different Ryan or Brian?
How to get the attention of the correct Ryan or Brian
Mary walked out onto the data entry floor at the office and said “Hey Ryan, got a sec?” Sixteen men named either Ryan, Brian, Rylan, and Byron—and even one woman named Brianne—all turned and looked.
“No, I said Ryan,” Mary reiterated annoyingly, really emphasizing the R. Still, five Ryans looked back and forth at each other, under the impression they were the one being spoken to. “Oh, Jesus Christ. Ryan Seacrest, I need to see you in my office.”
This Ryan or Brian problem was nothing new. Literally multiple times every single day someone called one of the names, causing all men with those names to momentarily turn and look. Something had to be done.
- If there are exactly one Ryan and one Brian in a group, make a point to really emphasize the start of the name. “RRRRRyan, you’re being awarded employee of the month… not you, Brian.”
- If there are two or more Ryans or Brians in a group, just saying “Ryan” is going to cause confusion.
- If you realize before speaking that there are multiple Ryans, consider saying their last name too.
- Make direct eye contact with the Ryan to whom you are speaking.
- If you waltz into an area where there are multiple Ryans and just say “Hey Ryan” toward a specific Ryan, the other Ryan(s) could be offended that you essentially forgot they existed, and that can cause long-term psychological issues.
- If the problem persists over time and is becoming a burden for all involved, it’s time to start assigning nicknames or calling the Ryans and Brians by their last names. In this scenario, no one should remain Ryan—everyone should change. Usually one Ryan gets annoyed first and volunteers. “From here forward I shall be known as R.C. I will not respond to ‘Ryan’ anymore.”
As a Ryan or Brian, how do you make clear to others what your name is?
As a Ryan or Brian, there’s nothing more frustrating than being whipped in the bare back with a wet towel while trying to take a shower. Well, that, or having someone incorrectly take down your name, whether on the phone, while ordering a coffee, or exchanging digits with a hot broad at the bar.
“Hi, I’m here to check in for my appointment!”
“And what is your name, sir?”
“Okay, Brian, have a seat, the doctor will be with you shortly.”
“No, it’s actually Ryan. Ryan with an R.”
“RYAN! Rrrrrrrrr. RYAN! No B at the front.”
“…Oh. Oh! Ryan. I’m sorry!”
This scenario seems to happen more often as above, with a Ryan being confused for a Brian. The B at the front of Brian is a more distinguishable sound. But it has been reported to happen both ways rather frequently. As a Ryan or Brian or Bryan, how can you help avoid these unpleasant situations?
Short of wearing around a name tag, there’s really only one thing you can do, within reason: always spell out your name when giving it out for the first time. “Hi, I’m Ryan. That’s Ryan with an R, not Brian. People always seem to mishear me.” Or try saying a celebrity name, like “Hi, I’m Ryan, as in legendary star of screen, Ryan Reynolds.” These simple statements can save you a lot of trouble!
My Hot Take
As a Ryan, I deal with these situations every single day. In my tiny little marketing department at work, there are only nine team members, but there are two Ryans, a Rylan, and a girl named Kylen. Every time someone comes over looking for one of the Ryans, they simply say “Ryan”, causing both of us to look. Pretty much everywhere outside of my job and immediate family, I’m known by my last name, Glanzer. I’ve even considered introducing my initials, RC, as a possible replacement.
And yeah, that second scenario where I introduced myself and someone misheard my name as Brian just happened today (hence the idea for this post). I gave the whole, “No, Ryan with an R” spiel.
They are great names, no doubt! There wouldn’t be millions of Ryans and Brians out there if the name sucked. But enough is enough.