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The trouble with having a unique name

I am currently a research psychologist in the United States, where I did my doctoral studies (What's in a name? Culture, word associations, hope and pride; July 30).

University administrations typically record my name as "Wei Sheng Oliver Sng".

This has led to some unfortunate situations, as the concept of having two legal first names of different languages is foreign to most Americans.

For instance, I remember waiting half a day at a university health centre because the nurse had supposedly called my name without anyone responding to it. She had called out "Mr Wee".

To avoid confusion, I typically introduce myself as Oliver. But that, in turn, leads to the question: "But what is your real name?"

I understand where this is coming from, given that many Chinese students adopt Western names.

Nevertheless, this, too, can get frustrating, as I end up feeling that my identity is being questioned and using my "real" name makes me an impostor.

My surname, Sng, does not help either, with its conspicuous lack of vowels.

Often, when I am to be introduced as a speaker, the host will ask how my surname is pronounced. I get asked this question so many times that I have developed a set of quirky responses ("Oh, it is pronounced Shazam").

One option that I have considered is changing it to its hanyu pinyin form, Sun.

Yet, I am reminded of the pride that my father has in our family name.

One reassurance, as my wife points out, is that I have a unique name.

In the meantime, I will continue to argue with university administrators about how I need to write my "real" name on official documents.

Oliver Sng Wei Sheng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'The trouble with having a unique name'. Print Edition | Subscribe