While many of us are on first name terms even with people we’ve only just met, from time to time we have to announce our full name – which is where, for some of us, the fun starts. Those with straightforward, no-nonsense, names may never have given the matter a second thought: John Smith and Mary Jones have it easy. For others, being misheard or asked ‘Can you spell that for me?’ on announcing their name is part of every day life and they very quickly develop a strategy for ensuring smooth introductions.
Going through life with a name that many suppose is Chinese, I’ve been asked a thousand times whether my father was an immigrant when in actual fact the Society of Genealogists traced the name back to a Baron Ming of the Cinque Ports in the mid-13th century. My father got so fed up with people misunderstanding his name that he used to introduce himself as ‘Ming-Em-Aye-En-Gee’ and even then would be asked to spell it. Me, I’ve tried various ruses in order to avoid being mistaken for Ms Milk, Mink or even Mange. ‘Ming as in dynasty’ has a certain ring to it, but I had to stop using it when a TV series of that name was screened in the 1980s and people used to say there was noone called Ming in it – duh.
I’ve also tried ‘Ming as in vase’ but this is greeted by certain elements of the population with complete bewilderment so I have to be selective. I went through a very tricky period when the film Flash Gordon was released, and Ming the Merciless and Princess Ming were on everyone’s lips except mine. Even worse was an extremely dodgy counterpart that I’m not even going to mention. Oh, and I also have to say ‘Jill with a J’.
One person whose name I have never forgotten was a former colleague, Joe, who used to introduce himself as ’Robeson, as in Swanee River’. How he would get on with that line today is anybody’s guess.