Some of you who follow me on Twitter may know that my big boss hasn’t been able to get my name right for the past three and a half months. (YeHing, guys, YeHing.) I’ve been joking about this for a while, but I recently realised that it’s a load of bullshit, and I shouldn’t be made to lighten this as some sort of quirky forgetfulness.
The truth is, if you’re going to work with someone for anytime more than a week, you better get to learn their name properly. Nobody ever actually pronounces my name correctly, and I’ve learnt to live with that and accept that because not everyone is trained in Mandarin (and even those who are can’t seem to get a handle on my name), but I don’t think spelling it is such a difficult task considering it’s in my email signature, my email address, etc., etc., and oh wait, you hired me.
After three and a half months, if you still can’t be bothered to get my name right, while various other Christian names you are ok with, I wonder what that says about how I should view my worth as an employee and a person. Granted, as a Londoner, you are more familiar with English names, but that doesn’t excuse spelling your employee’s name incorrectly, I would like to think.
A name is important as a defining element of someone’s personhood, and I think consistently getting it incorrect is indicative of a deeper lack of respect and lack of effort just because it is a Mandarin name, and what does that say about how we view/treat the Chinese culture/Chinese people/Chinese names as opposed to the easy-to-remember English names?
As articulated beautifully in this article about the complete lack of effort of Hollywood presenters to learn Quvenzhané Wallis’ name, naming is important and has implications of power and control, and I think maybe it’s time for me to push back and say “hi my name is not He Ying.”
Now I just have to figure out how.