My name is not that hard

It seems these days that every single week, someone spells my name incorrectly. It’s actually quite incredible, especially since the majority of them are writing to me on Facebook or email, where my name is clearly there.

The other week we were in the local newspaper. The journalist had asked me how to spell my name, written it correctly in his notebook and even commented on the ‘difficulty’ of it, yet the article still came out with my name misspelled all throughout.

My name is not that hard.

In preschool, my parents briefly tried to make me go by the name Tanya. To make things ‘easier’ for everyone else. At four years old, I didn’t want this name. Already, at such a young age, I was adamant that was not my name. It was Thanh-Lan.

Throughout my teens, I just dropped the Lan part. Thanh was already too difficult for most people, how would they even handle an extra three letters?

I remember a substitute teacher in high school, calling the roll and pausing at my name. She didn’t know how to say it, so instead said ‘Trevor’. Of course my friends found it hilarious and I was tormented with this the rest of my high school life.

I used to have a friend, someone I had known since I was five years old. We became quite good friends after high school and continued to be up until my mid 20s. He would never spell my name correctly, even in birthday cards. He would say that it was too difficult for him and he would joke about how he would never spell it right. I used to laugh along at the time, but back then I was still wanting to fit in to Australian society, that I didn’t see how problematic that (and even my) behaviour was.

I went from laughing about misspellings to being angry. It would happen over and over again and I would keep these frustrations bottled up inside of me.

I now point it out when people spell it wrong. Everyone apologises. Some people make excuses as well. ‘Oh sorry, I was tired at the time of writing.’ What kind of excuse is that? And this particular excuse was coming from someone close to me and Artur, someone we see quite often.

Another person continually spells my name incorrectly, even after Artur has corrected her multiple times.

People also often spell Artur’s name incorrectly. Also through Facebook or email, where his name is clearly visible. Most recently, someone called Ben wrote ‘Hi Arthur’. Instead of correcting him, Artur replied, ‘Hi Bhen’. I couldn’t believe that he would actually reply like that, but as Artur correctly pointed out: ‘he’ll never get it wrong again’.

I would never be so bold, or passive aggressive like that. (My passive aggressiveness is channeled through blog posts!) Though I admire a lot his head-on approach. My Asian upbringing makes me too polite for responses like that.

Western society needs to wake up and start getting used to ‘ethnic’ names. Every time someone spells my name incorrectly when they’re talking to me on Facebook messenger, or writing me an email, I wonder: ‘how?’

Do they really just not see the difference between Thanh and Than, Thanh and Tahn, Thanh and Tanh, Thanh and Thahn, Thanh and Tan? Is it just not important enough to double check or to even consider it at all? I really would like to know what it is. They’re not used to seeing a name that to drop a letter or so makes it look the same in their eyes?

When I come across a name I’m not familiar with and I have to contact this person, I double, triple check that I’m spelling it correctly. Isn’t that the normal thing to do? Or is it my own experience of others not getting my name right that makes me extra aware and cautious not to do the same to others?

I’ve noticed recently that whenever someone spells my name correctly, I am so amazed, happy and grateful. That’s kind of messed up. I shouldn’t be so impressed that someone has managed to type up these five letters in the correct order.

My name is not that hard.

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