One name: why so hard?

It’s more than 25 years since I’ve had one name, Stilgherrian. That’s plenty of time to get with the program. So from now on I’ll name the businesses and organisations who can’t get it right — starting with the Australian Business Register.

Now I grant you, a single given name with no surname is unusual in Australia. But it’s not unique. Various government agencies have told me there’s a dozen to 20 people with the same set-up — and it’ll probably be more common with further immigration.

And it’s not that hard to deal with either. Just realise that the law allows people to name themselves anything as long it’s not “obscene” or “frivolous” — whatever the hell that might mean! — and design your database appropriately. Don’t make “surname” a required field.

(And while you’re at it, skip “title” as a require field too. Not all of us are status-conscious Victorian-era middle class wankers who need to prefix our names with indicators of gender, marital status and property ownership.)

Full marks to DFAT for getting it right in my passport without even a question. Full marks to Medicare for 25 years of accuracy.

But somehow this cluefulness didn’t make it across to the Australian Business Register, who informed me today:

Unfortunately our systems must have a surname & not just a given name.

Sorry, not good enough.

Even if a person’s name is “unusual” or even “very rare”, it doesn’t matter. You’re the bloody government, and it’s your job to get it right. For every citizen.

If you can’t even get the basics right, like the business owner’s name, then how can we trust anything else in your database?

So, gentle public servant who shall remain nameless because it’s not your fault, what are we going to do about it?

9 Replies to “One name: why so hard?”

  1. DFAT usually get it right ‘cos they’re exposed to other naming conventions. It’s common for Indonesians, for example, to use a one-word name. (Like ‘Amrozi’….)

    The wacky fun begins when Vietnamese names are transcribed by Anglos; it’s time to get used to being known by your family name, kids, just like boot camp!

    Somebody once asked me if I agreed that it was ‘weird’ that ‘all these kids have the same Christian name… “Nguyen”… how do they tell ’em apart?’ I cannot say whether this was the same detective who freely used the phrase ‘over-educated’ as a universal perjorative; like the fine men and women of the Armed Offenders Squad, I can’t remember.

    They say ‘turnabout is fair play’, so Karma dictated that I was known on official documents as ‘FLTLT Richard’ whenever I worked in Malaysia.

  2. That’s ‘pejorative’. Install a ‘preview’ option here, damn you.

    It’s particularly annoying, given your recent post re: spelling howlers.

  3. Richard, I’m still astounded that, after decades of immigration from virtually every country on the planet, people who work in jobs with plenty of public contact — the police, for instance — still often seem incapable of noticing that other people’s traditions might not be exactly the same as their own.

    This is particularly astounding when the person’s job title is “detective” — a job that, at least as far as I understand it, has something to do with noticing subtle relationships between facts which might lead to a conclusion.

    Funny ol’ world…

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