Zing Stories

Wot's in a Name?

Wot's in a Name?

It's a funny thing, after travelling life's highway with one name, to change horses. Singh, as many realise nowadays, is Indian. It means Lion. It came my way because of a youthful marriage in a London Registry Office in the days when I roamed the world in search of adventure. My first short story was accepted by Cleo in 1981, and everything published under this name afterwards. Quite a body of work, now it's 2006.

Back in the 1980s, I was only too willing to ditch my maiden name, Wenck, originally from Germany. (Picture, if you will, the joys of teaching high school as Miss Wenck.) Lesley Lion has served me well, even if it did mean I became an obvious target for Indian salespersons offering cheap international telephone calls.

Not long after deciding to be a Singh, I came across Playboy of the Western World, the classic Irish drama by J.M. Synge. I immediately felt a deep connection with the name of the playwright. It's pronounced in a soft, Gaelic way, sounding like sing (as does Singh). Synge doesnt have a meaning as far as I know and it seems unlikely that - despite some Irish ancestry - J.M. and I are related. I wanted to make the change to Synge but hesitated. (My friends thought it showed flightiness and there are still friends from university days who can't get used to calling me anything but Wenck.) At last, the Irish soul from my mother's side of the family won through.

Oodgeroo of the Noonucal people was sixty-eight when she abandoned her English-derived name of Kath Walker. She was older than me, far more famous than me, and her reasons far more profound.

It was the year of the bicentennial celebrations, and she used the change to draw attention to the fact that white settlement gave Aboriginal Australia no cause for rejoicing. For personal reasons, I am following Oodgeroo's more political example and naming myself.

I've done the deed officially through the office of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. I've got my new driver's licence and have already started on pronunciation correction. As anticipated, people mistakenly go for singe, meaning burn. Ah well, one can't expect the adoption of an ancient Irish name will be easy.

There'll be at least one sure bonus. .. it will be good news for Mr Leslie Singh, the famous Indian hockey player. He can have his territory, and I will have mine.

Writing Queensland published this Letter to the Editor in August 2006.


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