My surname is INVALID

My family name is Pe.

It’s of Chinese origin and if there’s anybody I meet with the same surname, chances are we’re related.  I don’t think it’s a very common name as I’ve not met anybody else with the same name AT ALL that I’m not related to.

On one trip to the Philippines, I handed over my passport to customs on the way back to Australia.  The guy looks at my passport and says “Is this your surname?”  Used to this question asked in a tone sounding like a mixture of surprise and confusion, I say “Yes…” half rolling my eyes.  He then calls to the custom guy in the next booth and says “Hey!! Have a look at this!!” with a big grin on his face.  The guy at the other customs booth stops what he’s doing, comes over, looks at my passport and laughs.  They both have a chuckle, which gives me  great  confidence (sarcasm).  He then says “You’re Australian huh?”,

“Yes”, I respond.

He says “I don’t know anyone in Australia with that name”

WTF?  Do you even know anyone in Australia?  Besides, what’s that got to do with the price of bread?  Am I getting in trouble at customs because of my name?

Now, having this name, I’m used to lots of different reactions and none of them have been too fantastic:

a) I got teased a lot at school only about my name (PEanuts, PEe, PEn!s, PEe pee).  Kids are so inventive but they eventually learned not to mess with me… no  I didn’t hit them, I just gave them the death stare.

b)  Everyone mispronounces my name “Pay? Pee? Is it short for something?  Because you know it stands for Physical Education right?”   um…. yeah, no comment.

c)  When someone asks me for my surname either on the phone or in person, I ALWAYS have to say “It’s Pe, P for Peter, E, that’s it”  And 90% of the time, I will get the following response: “P yep, E yep” *long pause, waiting for the rest of my spelling*  “That’s it, there’s nothing else

“Oh! Is that it?  I thought that there was something else!” *awkward laugh*   80% of the time this will be followed with “Oh that’s a short name! Look at that! Nice and easy!” *another awkward laugh*  I think it’s fair to point out that I’m not the one doing the laughing.

These first 3 I got over when I was about 12, my grandma was on the phone trying to sort out her ticket back from Australia to the Philippines.   She had come over to visit and was on her way home “Hi, yes my name is Mrs Pe……   yes it’s Pe, P for Peter, E for Edward.. No, it’s Pe, P, E!!!  yes Pe….. No, P for Peter and E for Edward…..  NO!!! I’m not Mr Peter Edwards!!!  I’m Mrs Pe!!”  She was on the phone for about 15mins doing this and spent another half an hour afterwards telling the story because she got so flustered!

This had me giggling for a while, it felt good to realise, it wasn’t just me and I’m just going to have to deal with this young or old!

I also learned to introduce myself by my first name only because saying my surname would always confuse people.

d) When I created my first gmail account.  It required a minimum of 6 characters.  My first name is 3 characters, my surname 2 characters which only totals 5.  Yeah I sorted it by putting in my middle initial but geez… how many people would have that problem right? and finally, the reason why I decided to do this rant….

You’d think that by now, 2012 and the fact that there are billions of people with Chinese origin living in every nook and cranny of the globe,  there would have been an understanding that there are MANY 2 letter surnames in this world (eg. Pe, Ho, Do, So, Li, Ly, Wu etc) and yet this year, I went to fill out an online form (I won’t mention which well known brand this was) and couldn’t complete it because the following error message kept coming up:

SHOULD contain 3 letters? SHOULD? Are you F*cking kidding me?  I cannot submit an online form because my surname is less than 3 letters long?  WTF?  So what am I supposed to put?  A fake name?  In order to fill in the form, I did actually put in a fake name.

You think I’m kidding right?  Well check this out…  It happened again on another form!!According to this well known brand, my surname is not valid!!  Tell that to border control at every airport I enter…

I’d rather they just laughed at it like the customs guys in the Philippines!

When those guys were done chuckling, the first guy says, “Oh… I called him over because his name is Pe too”  (he pronounced it properly). “Oh really?” I dubiously replied, the pronunciation could have just been a fluke.  “Yeah” the second guy says.  They could tell I didn’t believe them.   My face probably showed what I was thinking… nobody has my name unless I’m related to them and I don’t know who you are!  He immediately responds to my silence and facial expression and shows me his badge, with his face and his name… his Surname:  Pe

He continues,  “Like I said, I don’t know anyone in Australia with that name but since I’ve never met anyone with our name that wasn’t family, we must be related!”  He smiles, “It’s nice to know I have an Australian relative.  And since you’re family,  I’ll give you family treatment – how much luggage have you got?” Embarrassingly, thanks to my lovely parents, I had about 15kg OVER the luggage limit (even after I’d refused to carry several items already).  He looked at my 2 big boxes and my suitcase.  “OK great, we’ll let it all through”.

I look at him in shock “That’s it?”  He smiles, “That’s it! You’re family!” Friggin’ Awesome!!  I went through and never saw him again.

I told  my dad the story…. we later found out, that guy was my second cousin!!!

So, as much as I have problems with my name, I’ve realised it is pretty special!  How can it not be?  Check this out!!

My name is a Trademarked Product!

I mean how many people walk into a store to find that their whole name is a trademarked brand?

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2 thoughts on “My surname is INVALID”

  1. That’s so funny, given I’m desperate for a shorter than 9 letter surname, which people can’t even pronounce let alone spell. I don’t believe anyone I have ever met has spelt it right first time!

    1. Hi Claire – I’m curious now to know what your surname is!! Given you’ve only put “M” and even you can’t be bothered typing it all in… it MUST be a long one! 😉

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