I do have a surname

When I wrote the post about my ‘strange foreign name’, I didn’t realise it would be so relevant so soon.

Today I received an email including a list of of academics all identified by their full names. And then there was also my name….The list looked something like that:

  • James Aaish
  • Maggie Beeeish
  • Peter Deigh
  • Darek
  • Laura Eeegh
  • John Faish
  • Celia Geegg

Yes. All were identified by their full names, except me. I got identified by my first name only, and by the diminutive, informal form of my name.

Interestingly, this is the second time it happened. About a year or two after starting to work in a British university I received a memo which included a similar kind of list (about three times longer), also with me sticking out like a sore thumb as the only one identified with my first name. I took it to my head of department, who looked at it and said something like: “Oh for f…sake, like a dog” and stormed off. A couple of hours later I received an apology.

He immediately understood what the author of the memo did. By chopping my name off, he constructed me as different, someone whose name does not need to be mentioned. The comment about the dog was probably overdone, but it stopped me to think. Whose surnames are not important and routinely unmentioned? Well, it’s either children or, perhaps, servants. It seems it’s also foreigners.

To be honest, I have got used to my ‘unpronounceable’ name. But I have not got used to the name that cannot be written. And I resent this infantilisation. Surely, it can’t be that much bother to simply copy my surname and paste it into an email.  Is it?



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