Monday, March 8, 2004

How I got my W

by Suw on March 8, 2004

I’ve had a few people ask me lately how I got my w. After all, it’s pronounced ?soo?, which sounds just like the usual shortening of my name, Susan, so why spell it differently? It is the influence of Welsh, as in the name Huw?

Well, in a word? no.

My first proper job out of Uni was working for a science publishing company. I had moved to London with a couple of friends after graduation and a year later I found myself working as an Editorial Assistant on three science journals covering immunology, genetics and biotechnology.

It was my job to invite pre-eminent scientists within those fields to contribute papers. We published bimonthly, and each journal ran about 16 to 18 papers, which meant that I would have to write invitations to about 80 authors in order to get enough acceptances to fill the pages.

So there I am, signing my squiggle at the bottom of each letter – a squiggle which could, quite frankly, say anything at all. The only letter that is discernible is a big S at the beginning, then it just tales off into spider scrawl. I fax off the 80 letters and think no more of it.

Almost the next day, responses start coming in. This is pretty usual. What isn’t usual is the way that all the scientists start asking me “Oh, is that really how you spell your name?”

The first time I’m asked, I answer “Yes. Of course”.

The second time I’m asked, I affirm again, but with a slightly perplexed tone.

The third time I’m asked, I wonder what the hell is the problem, and fish out my file copy. It is then that I spot that I’ve spelt my name Suw instead of Sue – the w is next to the e on the keyboard and I’m a bit dyslexic at the best of times and simply hadn’t noticed. My squiggle of a signature could quite easily be misinterpreted and gives no clues that the mistake is in fact a mistake at all.

Suddenly, it’s time to make a decision. Either I come clean and tell 80 scientific luminaries that the person who may well be proof reading their manuscript can’t spell her own name, or I convince three editors to change the way it’s spelt in the journal credits.

I decide that the latter is by far the easier option.

It took a while to get everyone to accept my w, and I still have to spell my name repeatedly to people, but for nine years I’ve been a Suw and I’ve been very happy with the amendment. I never liked being named after a legal process anyway. It was like being called ?Libel? or ?Perjury? when I would far rather have been a Natasha or a Svetlana.

These days I feel like a Suw – it's now my name, not a typo.

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