I have a problem: The English can’t pronounce my name.
You see, my official name (Shen Qiaoyun) is written in hanyu pinyin, which is the English phonetic representation of Mandarin.
So the English would read it as Kiao Yoon because Q is supposed to be a hard K sound in English. Some of them even get stressed because Q is not supposed to come without a U.
“What on earth is this word?!” they’d be thinking to themselves. “It breaks all the rules of the English language!”
They’d make an attempt: “Kuh… Keeee… Kao… Keeeeowwww? Kiao Yoooon? The doctor will see you now.”
I don’t want to be called Kiao Yoon forever.
So what am I going to do?
The most logical solution is to legally change my name.
But that is a massive pain in the behind. I have already done that. I changed my name once in November 2005 for feng shui reasons and had to go through the tedious process of updating records everywhere.
In fact, I only updated my driving license recently, which is exactly six years late.
I’ve also had to use a passport bearing my old name for more than five years because ICA refused to give me a new one. They just made an annotation in one of the pages in my passport showing that I have changed my name.
But no immigration officer in the world has ever thought to flip to that page on his/her own accord. I always have to spend a long time at the counter waiting for the officer to check my photo page against my arrival card, then look at me suspiciously, then allow me to turn the pages in my passport to show him the annotation.
Once, a Hong Kong immigration officer even scolded me after I showed him the page. He said I should have written my old name in my arrival card since that was what was showing on the photo page.
So, now that I finally have a new passport with the right name, I never ever want to go through that process again.
In England, Piers usually introduces me as Shey for the sake of convenience because, even if the English hear Qiaoyun being said, they find it hard to say it themselves.
Piers has been practisig the pronunciation for nine months and he still says Chiao Yoon, which is close enough but not quite right.
I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t regret changing my name because it’s been good for me, overall. It has helped to somewhat change my personality, which has in turn altered the course of my life for the better. But I wish I’d had gotten a name that didn’t start with a stupid Q.
My feng shui master had actually given me a list of names to choose from and Qiaoyun was the nicest sounding one. Many of the ones on the list sounded male or ugly, for example, Yongkang. Wtf, right?
I was talking to Piers about this recently. I told him I didn’t want to be called Kiao Yoon because kiao means dead in Hokkien and he wtflol-ed.
Life is never easy, is it?
Just remembered a good example I should have given.
When I was in England, I was online shopping a lot. I received packages from postmen and courier service men probably 30 or 40 times in all my time there.
Each time I opened the door, they would read off the package: “Kiao Yoon?”
Because there are many different courier services in England, I was always getting different people, so I didn’t even try to educate them as to the pronunciation of my name.
I suppose I could use the name Sheylara for my online shopping from now on, but there will still be situations where I can’t use it (bank, insurance, clinic, etc) where people will have to try and read my name off a form. These are the ones I want to avoid!