Being politically correct

It is sometimes reasonable to be politically correct. Often this simply means being sensitive to the feelings of others. For example we would not use the so-called ?n word? because we would want to avoid offending the African-Americans in our midst. Likewise, we respect newspapers like the NZ Herald which write f*** and sh** instead of ?fuck? and ?shit? so as to avoid offending readers under seven years of age. This is no more than common courtesy.? ?

On the other hand political correctness is sometimes not applied when, in my view, it should be. I am an ageing male and I find it offensive when people I am doing business with call me by my given name. If I have to telephone the phone company or the electric power company, for example, I would wish to be addressed as Mr Wang. It seems, however, that the people who take customer calls have been instructed to call us by our first name. So I find some 16 year old girl, by the sound of her, calling me by my first name, yet she does not know me and I am old enough to be her grandfather. In my culture this is disrespectful.

The name Wang is the second most common family name in China and therefore, I suppose, the second most common family name in the world. When spoken correctly ?Wang? rhymes with ?hung? but bureaucrats almost invariably say my name so it rhymes with ?hang?. I am not being critical of them, I am being critical of a system which allows them to consistently make this easily corrected error.

There?s more. The name Wang, when pronounced correctly, is spoken with a rising inflection, i.e. it starts low and ends a little higher. Let me explain. When a kiwi asks the question ?Neat, eh?? the sound of ?eh? is different from when he exclaims ?Neat, eh!? When expressing the same two words as a question the ?eh? is spoken with a rising inflection. Likewise, Wang must be spoken with a rising inflection if it is to be pronounced correctly.

A Chinese friend of mine has the surname Xu. This is often pronounced ?zoo? by non-Chinese people, whereas the correct pronunciation is more like (but not exactly the same as) ?shoo?. The pronunciation of the x is uniquely Chinese but ?sh? is pretty close.

I know that Chinese is not one of New Zealand?s official languages, like Maori or sign language are, but I am pretty sure there would be more Chinese speakers in New Zealand than there are Maori speakers or deaf people. I suggest that we Chinese are as entitled as Maori to have our names pronounced correctly.

I would go further. In Chinese culture the family name comes before the given name. I find it culturally offensive that, in writing my name in official documents, I must put my given name before my family name. Governments bureaucrats should, I suggest, respect all cultures represented in New Zealand and not just the two predominant ones.

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