A crowfoot flower, tenaciously among the rocks.
I hate people who don’t listen when I slowly spell my name for them: Oh, Ay, En, Aitch. “
What? En, Ay, Oh?”; No! Oh [wait for them to say, yes?] Ay [wait for a yes?]; En [wait for another yes? they get impatient] Aitch. That’s all.
Then they say, “Okay, why did you not say your name was Ann?” Hmm, because it’s not. My name is Oanh. It starts with an Oh. And is pronounced wun. Shall I spell it for you, again?
“Oh, sure. That’s unusual, isn’t it?” Mmm,
I murmur, without saying anything else. It’s too much hassle to say, no, actually, it’s not unusual. I have been patient, really, I have. Patient all my life.
I don’t expect anyone to know how to pronounce or spell my name (okay, my family and friends I do expect to know). Hell, I even crack pretty good jokes about my name (if I say so myself). My best was when I rang my best friend in high shool and her father picked up the phone.
Me: Hi, Mr BestFriend. Can I speak to BestFriend? It’s Oanh.
Mr BestFriend: Which Oanh? ho ho.
Me: The only Oanh of course. chuckle chuckle.
Mr BestFriend: Ha! That’s great! [Aside and shouting] BestFriend! It’s only Oanh on the phone!
Of course, sometimes I got sick of my name. Random people, usually men, usually on trains, would ask me my name and I would tell them: Two point four. I thought I was being pretty funny. They did not bother trying to chat me up any further.
I also used to lie – colourfully – about my ‘ethnic heritage’. You know, in response to the “Where are you REALLY from?
Sometimes, I would be an Inuit princess, seeking refuge in Australia from having to marry my sister’s brother because she died, which was a custom of the tribe that I would one day lead. I was here, learning martial arts and survival skills, and I would return when I was strong, to overthrow my father, to re-create the matriarchal society we were supposed to be. That was my favourite story.
Sometimes I was just apathetic. Yes, I’m from China. It’s a big place. Yes, I eat dogs. And lounge about smoking opium. Sure, I will amend the feng shui in your house. You should place the lucky dragon plant in the turtle corner well away from the phoenix roof. Not good for the monkey vibes. Although, it is the year of the oscillating octopus, so perhaps you should completely obliterate the turtle corner.
Or I would reply to people who called out, “Konnichi Wa!” with Origami! Toyota! Mitsubishi! and they would look at me, failing to appreciate the extent and sheer scintillating brilliance of my wit. Some of them even went on to speak more Japanese to me. Bless their misinformed hearts. Needless to write (but I’m going to write it), I did not date any of them.
And you know what? None of these people I spun stories to ever commented on my Aussie accent.
I used to want to change my name. To something easy. Something ‘Anglo’. Something that, when a relief teacher was taking class I did not have to say, Here-ah when there was a puzzled pause.
I had one relief teacher who was extremely discombobulated to discover that I was named ‘one’. I was sitting in the front row, first desk. He was a young teacher, and it did not help that my classmate (front row, second desk) piped up that he was ‘two’. The poor, young relief teacher assumed we’d been allocated numbers, so he proceeded to call us by the numbers that our seating arrangements would have assigned us. We all tittered quietly but did not correct him. When the principal came in to check on how he was doing, our class got a stern scolding. Me, especially, for allowing it to happen (I was Class Goody-Two-Shoes (otherwise known as School Captain). The relief teacher never then did believe me that my name actually, really was Oanh. I had to ask the principal to affirm that, “Yes, her name really is Oanh”, for the relief teacher to accept any more words that came out of my mouth, asserting anything at all.
Actually, I have strong recollections of wanting to change my name to Karen. I cannot now recall why the name Karen. She’s not in any books that I can remember from my childhood.
I’ve been happily Oanh for a while now.