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!
Thankks for sharing this
I hv 2 Chinese Mauritian friends. Their surname is their grandfather’s entire name. It’s quite bizzare.
Because its like half their name not their own.
Wow, judging from the first sentence, I can already imagine how bizarre it is hahahaa
I’m Charlene, and my surname’s Kiew. It’s pretty easy to pronounce (it sounds like the letter Q) but people have pronounced it in the weirdest ways possibly before. I’ve gotten stuff like kee-ee-you, kill-you (I hate this one honestly), Liew/Hiew and Quek. I don’t know how Quek looks anything like Kiew, but my pri-sch PE teacher once paused and then went “How am I supposed to pronounce this?? Quek??”. When I tell people that they can call me by the name “Kiew” people always ask “Huh why Q isn’t your name Charlene???” I always have to say “Oh, it’s my surname” and the next thing they say would be “Omg that’s damn rare la how do you spell it??”. And then they start guessing and they usually get it very very wrong. *shrugs*
Had to comment. My surname was never a problem for people (including teachers) in England but my first name was and I just shortened it to make it easier.
However, in Nigeria my first name isn’t an issue; it’s my surname that is. They say it all wrong and then squint at me like – why do you have that surname???
Why indeed? But I lurrrve all my names.
Haha, you got the best of both worlds!
Hi there! I took the liberty of nominating you for the Sunshine Award because I find your blog inspiring. More info here: http://theprettyplatform.com/2014/06/07/a-little-sunshine-goes-a-long-way/. No pressure to accept the award if you’re not an award person; it’s just my way to acknowledge your work :-)
I have slight troubles with that as well! I wouldn’t necessarily call it an entirely difficult name: Glorioso. Is it that hard to pronounce… who knows? In all honesty, if you sound my name out, you usually get the correct pronunciation.
However, like you, I also experience the pause teachers make when trying to pronounce my last name. In the silence, I find myself nodding along as they try to pronounce it. 1 nod = 1 syllable correct.
Glorioso? That sounds pretty catchy. Kinda just rolls off my tongue actually haha. Yea coming to think of it it’s like Italian for “glorious” LOL. I supposed you must nod a lot then haha.
My amazingly dramatic name is the same as a veteran late actress (in India) …. Which ultimately led all the singers to use her name ( ultimately my name )in a hope to make their songs the “HAPPENING THING”, which directly resulted my friends , well in this case ,who so ever knew my name and were Indians and knew how to operate their damn voice like a rope, start to sing those “songs” which made me feel like a star in the beginning, but later it felt like being hit at the face with all the rotten veggies in the world……….
On the brighter side a very “factifull” post…. Not that there is something such as “factifull” existing in any dictionary…….
Haha I like how you describe your name as dramatic. I can’t believe people actually use like a fake name just to make their songs famous. Doesn’t make much sense to me.
Factifull is not a word.
But now it is.
Does this somehow make me cool that I found a new word?!
Looking forward to new posts!!
I can relate to the weird surname, at least when it comes to spelling. My maiden surname was Willfong. Strange on it’s own in the Midwest of the U.S., stranger still when the people find out it’s German. It is a knee-jerk response to spell it out but everyone remembered that curly haired girl with the weird name.
Wow, Willfong is probably the most unique word I’ve heard all week, much less surnames.
Well my surname isn’t unique since it’s quite popular.
But my name, I guess where I live, is unique. Whenever a person can pronounce it correctly on their first try from reading it, it will be my turn to give the shocked face. Though I don’t understand what’s so hard about it.
What you said were true about the ‘pause’ the teachers have. Whenever there’s a new teacher, I would sit there and be like, wait for it…then they pronounce it weirdly and I correct them.
But I like having a different name because I don’t have to worry about having the same names as other people which I would not like.
Hey! Your third sentence made me laugh. Ah well, here’s to many more years of awkward pauses!
i’m burmese, and living in england, so i have a pretty rare surname that’s also very easy to pronounce ^^ unfortunately…i had a very weird first name, which nobody could pronounce properly, so my parents had to change it to something easier – it’s now my middle name!
Wow you’re Burmese and living in England? How kewl is that! Woah so you switched your middle name to the first and vice versa?
it’s hard to explain without revealing my *~*super secret identity*~*, but i changed my first name to my middle and got a new first name ^^ if that makes any sense!!
I have a friend called Louis and his nickname is Lou, and every time he introduces himself as that there’s a weird look that people give him ;) Still though, I’d prefer to have a surname that’s weird instead of a really common one. Trust me, I went from having a really cool and unique name to a really common one. Somehow before I started secondary my parents decided that I needed and official surname, even though I didn’t have one on my birth certificate or passport-still don’t in fact. Turns out my dad’s middle name(Indian naming system, it’s complicated) is really, REALLY common all over the country. I’m in London now, and it’s still pretty common, so that gives you an idea how common it must be in India. Oh and there were presidents, prime ministers and members of the cabinet with that same surname. Lots of them.
Haha Lou is a crazy catchy nickname I can’t understand why people will give him a weird look LOL. Hmm, damn what a pity man. Why not change it back again? This time maybe you can give yourself something really cool, really unique, really special… like… Tom.. or something.
Take care Ace! Nice hearing from you!
Lol I think it’s great but others don’t, considering I live in London and the English meaning of loo it’s not that surprising. But most of us have got used to it now ;) Yeah it is a pity about my name-I do intend to drop it again actually-it’s not on any of my official documents like my birth certificate or passport. Haha cause Tom is soooo special, right? Lol it wouldn’t go with my name at all, and it’s a guy’s name on top of that.
It was nice seeing one of your posts after a while :) You take care too!