What's in a name tag?


The image at left is from our friends, the LOLcats.  Everyone needs a feminist cat buddy to keep your friends honest, right?

At the Berkshire Conference, everyone was given a name tag on a string by default, which seems to be the overwhelming preference of women scholars at any conference.  (We don’t wear jackets all the time any more, and certainly not at a summer conference, so tags on strings are so much more practical.)  The only thing is that everyone winds up scanning everyone else’s diaphragm-to-navel region, instead of the mid-chest region, when they’re working the room.

Maybe conferences should just buy 1,500 or so Burger King crowns, and ask conference goers to write their names on the crowns with Sharpies.  That would lend an air prankish self-deprecation to the festivities.  How seriously could Professor Famousname take herself when delivering a paper while wearing a cardboard crown?  (Which eminent scholar would you like to see dressed like she had just hosted a birthday party at Burger King for seven year-olds?  Don’t forget the cheezburgers!)

0 thoughts on “What's in a name tag?

  1. I’m up for it!

    I always have to tie a knot in the back of the name-tag string so that the placard ends up high enough on my chest people can read it (and not have me slap them, heh).


  2. I’d totally wear the crown. Just slap a sticker with my name on it over the BK logo, and point me to the podium. I’ll even bring bobby pins to secure it when I’m leaning over tables in the book display.


  3. OK–I’m going to put this in the report for the 2011 Berks that I recommend BK crowns instead of name tags!

    Now, if you’re all really daring, you won’t wait for a conference to supply the crowns–you can get your own! Roxie, I hear the MLA is a fashion-fest anyway–would a cardboard crown really stand out much? At AHA I think it would make a statement amidst the sea of tweed and leather patches, but then, wearing women’s clothing instead of a middle-aged man’s wardrobe makes one stand out anyway.


  4. Most academics look goofy enough without cardboard crowns. I can also see the crown amplifying the existing delusions of grandeur that affect some academics.

    I would like to see conference attendees wear name-tag stickers on their foreheads, or maybe chins — conference registrars decide name-tag location based upon the size of an attendee’s face.


  5. Why do we need name tags at all? Maybe if we were all anonymous, we’d find ourselves talking to people who had interesting ideas, no matter their rank or current academic home or their “importance” in the field.


  6. ej–what a quaint idea! Although of course name tags serve the interests of sucker-uppers and status-seekers, they also serve my interests as 1) someone who can’t remember people’s names if I hear or see it only once, and 2) someone who likes to connect a face with a body of work. Very frequently I’ll meet someone at a conference and if I see their name tag, I’ll be able to say, “hi there, loved your book!” (And who doesn’t enjoy that kind of self-introduction?)

    Remember what happened to me at lunch Sunday when we were briefly introduced to a Very Important Southern Historian, and I didn’t hear her name properly and so just said, “hi.” If she were still tagged, I could have said, “oh, hello, VISH! And thanks for so graciously helping to put together a panel featuring the work of more junior scholars.” (Not sucking up, just being able to recognize the work someone did and the distance she traveled to get to the Berks.)

    Ortho: I think stickers applied directly to the skin get old really fast. (Unless they were made out of Band-Aid like material? But by day three, they might get kind of skanky.)


  7. Maybe try those so-called “temporary tatoos” that kids seem to like? I’m actually sort of a traditionalist, preferring the small rectangular pin-on tags. They can be pinned on a shirt as well as a jacket and can be placed wherever individuals are willing to be scanned. I think larger and bolded print makes sense for catching people’s names. (Did you ever go to a conference and find yourself checking the tags of people you’ve known since the third grade, since the frenzied vibe of being at a conference begins to make you doubt you can remember ANYone’s name?)

    Anyway, those things that dangle around your neck are technically called “lanyards” in the event-planning business, and I’ve always hated them. I was on the council of a state-level historical org. once and somebody was pushing hard for them at the next meeting and all I could think of was ugh, how corporate. (The best reason for using them, I think, is to remind ourselves how some universities are moving in the direction of expecting all “associates” (i.e. faculty) to wear these sorts of things all the time, since they look so, well, corporate. Plus, they do help to prevent terrorists from crashing planes into skyscrapers. (At least that’s what it says in all the event-planning powerpoints and breakout groups).


  8. I always forget to bring my spare cover with a pin, so I can switch when I want. But really, it’s no biggie for me. I think I do prefer to pin on most clothes, but it depends on the fabric and the weather. BTW, I passed on your message to the letter-writer!


  9. I don’t like pins because they ruin delicate material. There are badges that have clips that can attach to lapels, pockets, collars, etc.

    Name tags are really essential for us absent-minded folks who can’t remember names of people we know but only see once or twice a year. I remember faces but names go out the window as soon as the conference is over. It gets worse the older I get. Oh yeah, and the print needs to be larger so these aging eyes can read it without glasses!


  10. Hey, ADM–thanks for stopping by to comment. Ruth Karras told me your letter-writer’s name (apparently she also sent the letter in to the medieval women’s history listerv, un-anonymously), so I’ve got her on the list. And, thanks again for posting about the Berks, and for your compliments!

    And KC: yes, the pin-tags cause delicately knitted sweaters to sag and tear! I stand by my BK crown suggestion–another advantage is that people can write their own large-print names!


  11. Or how about trying those motion-activated voice synthesizers first used (via pull-strings) in the iconic 1960s(?) “Chatty Kathy” doll brand [another possible blog item?] but now almost ubiquitous in grocery store aisles?
    When someone leans over squinting at your clavicle it would give that always-startling” “Hi!!! I’m Soandso. See my new article in the Bionic History Newsletter…” This would arguably promote more discretion at meetings. The startle-factor learned aversion response certainly keeps me walking in the center of the grocery aisle these days.


  12. I had an unfortunate event with wearing badges with pins.It was summer and I wasn’t wearing a jacket over a office-casual dress with a cleavage.And all the men had a opportunity to stop and read my badge….actually looking at my chest.It was so embarrassing.
    So now I swear I’m never gonna wear that kind of badges.
    Hope they will have the ones that you are talking about.


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