According to data gathered by Statistics Singapore, approximately one out of 10 Chinese Singaporeans have the surname “Tan” making it the most popular Chinese surname in the Lion City. This was followed by Lim, Lee, and Ng. People who have them probably wouldn’t really stand out from the crowd, surname-wise, but they shouldn’t have any ‘issues’ regarding their names for at least, well, most parts of their lives. I can’t say the same for me though.
As you may not already know, my name is Lhu Wen Kai (shocker),
and I’m what they call perfection. Anyway, it’s not my name that’s giving me trouble. It’s my surname. Once upon a time, our family name was “Loo”. This changed during the birth of my father, when the nurse keyed his surname into the “system” wrongly. It’s just plain crazy because firstly, autocorrect didn’t exist back then in 1963, and even if it did it’s mind-numbingly puzzling as to why “Loo” was autocorrected to “Lhu”, considering how people ironically now have spelled it as the latter. And yet back in the olden days, this hipster nurse who’s way ahead of time managed to reverse the confusion process.
Anyway, I’m not complaining though (because CPF hasn’t really been a big part of my life yet). Having a weird name does have its perks.
For one, you don’t even need to hear your name to know that you’re being called. Silence is your name, like literally. When there’s a role call, just listen for an abrupt pause. That’s you right there. You’re next. For double confirmation – do note that this is an exclusive Singaporean term that’s just grammatically incorrect. You either confirm something, or don’t confirm anything at all. Double confirming is a luxury that can only be afforded in Singapore – just look up and you should see your lecturer or teacher squinting and squirming, trying to force something un-vulgar out of their mouths in an uncomfortable manner that almost always make you uncomfortable yourself. And this brings me to my next perk.
Having a weird name is probably one of the two plausible reasons that allows you to correct someone without them getting pissed at you.
The other being not talking about the Prime Minister of Singapore. (Please don’t sue me… I don’t even have 5 cents to spare.)
Anywho, yea. That’s probably one of the most anti-climatic sentences ever, but anyway, yea.
After awhile, it just becomes kind of a natural instinct to automatically spell out your name for people before they start giving you the unmistakable “huh” face while they’re trying to pronounce something…. yea, just something. After brainstorming for a bit, they’ll be like “Raise your hand if you’re here alright. Max? Michael? Erm… Hmm… Errrrr….. Maximillian Andrea Archimedes Papandrious?”
No sir, it’s just Lhu.
Autocorrect can be rather troubling as well. I lost track of the amount of time I could have saved if I wasn’t wrestling my way in a bout with the glorious autocorrect. Type your name, a red line appears. Space it, your name automatically changes to one of the random default 331 languages present. Add to dictionary, and the frequency of your name being changed goes on a PMS road trip. It’s so irritating you know? Like the computer thinking that she knows me better than I do. Thinking that she’s the boss of me. Thinking that she knows everything.
No wonder she’s a, well, she.
Having a weird name also gives you quite a respectable number of identities. Everytime something comes in the mail for you, it is always addressed to your other alter egos. Like I feel really obligated to send people a dictionary since they do not know how to spell, but I soon realised it’s not exactly a brilliant idea considering how they’ll address me in their thank-you letter as “Loo” once again.
On top of the common spelling errors, I receive mail with random alphabets affixed to the end of my name, like Looz, Khaiz and Kaz. I don’t know about you guys but I really can’t comprehend how this mistake was made in the first place. Adding the letter “z” to the end of every word? Like who do you think you are?
Not only that, you’re entitled to people asking you if you spelled your name wrongly. Like I’m not even kidding about this rockstar treatment. There was this one time when I got into a 15 mins argument (which was rather heated) because the joker I was talking to refuse to acknowledge that my name was spelled like this and insisted that I was playing a practical joke on him.
Having a weird name, or surname in my case, does have actual perks though. (You didn’t actually think I was being serious for my past few paragraphs did you? If you did, well, yea. This paragraph is merely an extension. Read on.) It’s glaringly unique, making you stand out rather easily, and since people are jamming their brains, trying to decipher how exactly to spell your name, you’ll leave quite a bit of an impression, and even if they don’t remember your name, they’ll still be like “you’re the guy with the weird name right? What was it again… err… Cullen?” I personally don’t really care though since it’s part of personal branding, and either way my name still sparkles, plus hey, I’m the one getting that one million dollar contract.
Who’s the Lhu-ser now?
Anyway, on a more serious note, having a unique surname does present you with a lot more opportunities than your peers due to the reasons noted above. While I owe my whatever-success-I-have-now to my hard work and determination, a part of me knows that should I not have such a brilliant surname, a lot of (or a few) things wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t be who I am today. If you think about it, should the nurse handling my father’s birth wasn’t that hipster, my life could have taken a completely different path. Sure, if you look at it in a pessimistic way, things might have been better, but my life is amazing right now and I’m genuinely contented with the way things are going.
Anyway, back to my point once again. Do you think anyone will really care if someone called Taylor Tan-
But Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time!
What’s your unique surname?
I will be releasing the results of the Starbucks gift card giveaway on the post coming out next Friday. Find out what happened when our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited my alma mater, and the things I’ve observed and learnt throughout the entire visit. Stay tuned!
Follow me on Instagram: @wenkai31!