‘I Am Not A Typo’ calls for big tech to be inclusive

‘I Am Not A Typo’ calls for big tech to be inclusive

I’m writing this off the back of a very frustrating call to sort out my newly broken freezer.

During this time I had to repeat and spell my name (first and last) no fewer than four times to three different people, only to still be called ‘Anne’ for my troubles.

It’s something I’ve come up against for as long as I can remember. Even growing up in South Wales, where my first name originates, back in the 80s and 90s very few people were called Angharad (Welsh for ‘much loved’ or ‘beloved’). God knows my name never appeared on a mug, a Coke bottle, or a headband as a kid. Then I moved to England at 18 and have been apologising for my ‘difficult’ name ever since. Oh, and six years ago this month (happy anniversary, babe!) I married a man with a Catalan surname that no one says correctly either. So, now I’m two for two.

You can imagine my delight, then when I spotted a LinkedIn post from new organisation ‘I Am Not A Typo’ (campaign created by Blurred) earlier this week, calling out big tech for the fact that 41% of UK children’s names are listed as ‘typos’- because it is very much needed.

I shared the post immediately, and then emailed the lovely Lucy here at Creative Moment to ask if she’d like some words on the campaign, because it resonated so deeply with me, and judging from the comments, it resonated with a lot of other people too.

At 24, I had a shortlist of names I was considering changing mine to.

Simple, well-known, anglicised names. I wasn’t long into my PR career and phone pitching was still a huge part of media relations (remember phones?!) so my name constantly slowed down my pitch pace. I legit had one person say ‘Hagrid?’ when I’d repeated my name after I’d spoken to them for long enough that they shouldn’t have thought I sounded anything like a giant groundskeeper at a magic school.

I’d go to client meetings and people would laugh as they struggled with my name before giving up, so I’d laugh along with them, thinking it the perfect icebreaker that we could all enjoy mocking how hard my name is to pronounce. No one would have done this had I said I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t, because I was mid-20s in a corporate space who didn’t want to rock the boat.

I still, to this day (and I turned 37 yesterday) use the name ‘Chloe’ if I’m asked for one when booking a taxi, or the dreaded moment they ask for your name at Starbucks so they can write it on their cups to attempt personalised service. I’ll get flustered and stumble in situations where a name is needed, and revert to whatever friend I’m with, or even my husband’s name – so I’ve been Matt a few times too.

The thing that makes me wince now is when people, after hearing my name, automatically ask ‘do you have a shortened version?’ without even trying, as if eight characters in this order is too much hassle. Or another fave, ‘I knew an Angharad once, she went by Hattie/Harriet’ – good for her, but those are different names entirely so no, you can’t call me that.

And when it’s written down? I add it to my own dictionary on Word so I don’t get the dreaded red squiggle, but in emails it’s been auto-corrected to ‘And Harrass’ – which is ironic when I’m chasing someone for something, or ‘Anghard’ – which I assume is a terrible attempt at a porn name.

My experiences even shaped how I named my daughter.

Knowing she would likely grow up in England, and not wanting to saddle her with how I’ve gone through life, I chose a simple first name and gave her a traditional Welsh middle name instead. I love her name, as I love mine now, but it still makes me sad when I think of the reasons behind it.

It’s early days for ‘I Am Not A Typo’, and for every anecdotal experience like mine, it has the facts to back it up. For example, did you know that in the last five years there have been 2,328 children named Esmae which gets red squiggled, where the 36 kids named Nigel in the last half a decade are fine?

According to the campaign, this issue disproportionately affects names with African or Asian origin as well as Scottish, Welsh and Irish names. It says it wants no child to be bothered by the technology that is integral to their life.

I am not a typo. And neither are you.

For more information, head to IAmNotATypo.org

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