I spent an evening building a website just to explain my name (with Eleventy, but more on that next time). After more than three decades of hearing and seeing it truncated seemingly at random, it suddenly occurred to me that I could put a simple explanation on an equally simple HTML page, publish it at a simple URI, and simply direct those in need of a simple explanation an explanation to said URI. They might ignore it, but then again, they might not, and it might allow me to dispense with yet another frustrating repetition of a tedious conversation.

I confess to some embarrassment and self-consciousness. I know this only reinforces the image of the rigid and socially inept software developer. In truth, the first version I published sounded significantly more pompous and self-important, even including a list of ‘correct’ names to aid those who genuinely don’t know how to shorten it—more on that in a moment. However, I felt deeply uncomfortable being so unnaturally prescriptive, so I removed the list and tried to make the text more matter-of-fact. Really, I’d never have dreamt of building the page at all if I didn’t find myself constantly meeting with confusion on this head.

The inciting incident

The genesis of this idea came after a recent, slightly surreal email exchange which I’ll reproduce below in an abbreviated form. For some context, I had already explained my name to several staff members (including the one answering in this case) at the company in question multiple times, both in person and in writing, so my patience was wearing thin even before these latest messages. It took quite a bit of editing to avoid my replies seeming rude:


This is Shiv Jha-Mathur. My last package expired on Tuesday; could you please let me know what the available packages are so I can renew it?


Hi Mr. Jha,

Hope you are doing well.


Hi […],

Very well, thank you, and I hope you are too. However, please note that, as I’ve explained before, my first name is Shiv and my last name is Jha-Mathur (the dash[1] is not optional). I’d appreciate it if you updated your records so I don’t receive calls and emails addressed to ‘Mr. Jha’ in future!


Hi Mr. Mathur,

We have updated your name in our database.


Hi […],

I’m afraid you’ll have to update it again—as I’ve said several times now, my last name is Jha-Mathur. It isn’t two separate names.


Hi Sir,

We have received your payment.


I let the matter rest there, although this last missive was immediately followed by exactly 15 emails, each telling me that a new ticket had been created in the system, which I’m sure was accidental.

  1. I feel a pang every time I say dash instead of hyphen, but I try to remember my audience.