TRUE GRIPES : SURNAME ABUSE:

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At the doctor's surgery, a job interview or even an Indian takeaway, the anticipatory dread of hearing my surname announced in public has long been a personal cue to cry, "It's Mr Lopatin, actually." As a perennial victim of surname abuse, I am ac customed to receptionists calling for Mr Plopatin, and receiving post addressed to Mr M. Lowfatin.

Indeed, having to weld "I'll spell it for you" every time I utter my surname has become a pointless reflex, especially when pitched against the nation's telephonists (aka graduate temps). Despite spelling my name with the patience and clarity of a Sesam e Street voice-over, I am systematically re-christened, requiring the phonetic equivalent of dental records to recognise my own name.

Surname abuse has already ruined the most joyous moments of childhood. For instance, at school award ceremonies my pride was frequently wounded by a steady stream of coveted certificates boasting what could only be described as exotic anagrams of my nam e. Not surprisingly, this dehumanising and crushing trait has plagued my family for generations. In the 1950s my grandfather had a sizeable win on the pools, only to suffer the indignation of receiving a commemorative cheque on which his initial and su rname were wrongly inscribed. Is it any wonder my mortal legacy is in grave danger of slipping between a Tippex stained birth certificate and a misspelt headstone?

To stem the rising tide of surname abuse, I now single out and blacklist the illiterate morons who commit this daily crime. The myriad of companies that keep me in post are therefore judged not according to complex ethical or environmental issues, but u pon the simple point of spelling my name. A straightforward task for an all-caring, image conscious multinational you might think. Yet not a week goes by without the postman smirking at another contribution to the existing catalogue of comedy spellings .

This is in particular reference to junkmail, which in addition to being unsolicited and unwanted, has the frequent audacity to reduce my surname to a dyslexic drool. Harsh as it sounds, even an absent dot on a lower case 'I' construes a misspelling, not to mention instant passage to the bin. I can only lament over how many jackpot prizes and time-share options I've thrown away down the years.

Interestingly, the Inland Revenue and privatised utilities are arnong the few bodies that consistently spell my name correctly. Woe betide The Independent if they get it wrong - mine's a lifetime's subscription to The Times if they do...

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