All entries for Friday 13 February 2009

February 13, 2009

The Missing N: Genesis

So, this is it. First blog ever, first post ever. I'm not sure why I'm doing this, what this is going to turn into, or if anyone is ever going to read any of this anyway.

But every journey begins with one step.

A good start would probably be to explain the title: The Missing N. No, first, brief word about myself. My name is Alexander Kermit Nørlund-Matthiessen, Alex Norlund for short. At the time of writing, I'm a first-year Maths undergraduate here at Warwick. There's an explanation as to why my surname is that long, but right now, all you need to know is that it reveals that I'm Danish.

So, The Missing N. It all starts a year and a half ago, when I'm signing up for 5 different English Universities through UCAS. The first step is creating an account online. Sounds be simple enough, and indeed it is, except there's one problem. They ask for my surname, but their software will only allow 18 characters - mind you, this is more than enough for most people. But 'Norlund-Matthiessen' contains exactly 19 characters, so when I reach the final 'e', it won't let me type any more letters. Now, I have several options:

-Drop the hyphen. Problem: this would turn my name into an illegible omelette of seemingly random letters.

-Drop the entire 'Matthiessen' bit. Problem: I might run into trouble later, when proving that I am who I am to some bureaucratic bank or institution, when the name on my ID-card is different from the name I've given.

-Drop a 't' or an 's' in 'Matthiessen'. Problem: that would mean deliberately spelling my name wrong (something which just feels... wrong), and I suspected that it would be spelt wrong for a long time, sonce the mistake would be hard to spot.

-Drop the final 'n'

I go for the final option in the end. It would be the easiest thing to explain and get corrected afterwards. Also, on every other form I have to fill in by hand, I write out my full name, so I am therefore convinced that someone, SOMEONE, will realise that there has been an error, and that '...ssen' is a more common ending for a Scandinavian surname than '..sse'.

Months later, I start receiving replies from the universities. And every single one is calling me 'Norlund-Matthiesse', without the 'n'. I just ignore it, thinking that I'll inform whatever university I end up in of the mistake, once I get there in September. In the end, Warwick University turns out to be the place. However, when signing up online for accomodation, an error message appears, saying that my surname doesn't match any name in their database. Alright, I send them an email explaining the situation, and get a very nice reply with these exact words:

"Thank you for your email. I confirm that you name has been changed on our admissions database and that we have also received your application for accommodation."

Relief. Trouble's over, that's that. No more missing n's. Or so I think...

A few days before the start of term, my certificate, guaranteeing my entry to Warwick University, is sent to me. And guess what? No N. 'Norlund-Matthiesse' again. I send them an email saying that I know it's kind of late, but there is (still) a typo in my name. No reply. Start of term, I go there, and tankfully no-one cares that there's an N missing on my certificate, no-one even notices. Only thing is, their database is still wrong, so anything prepared for me with my name on, is missing an 'n'. My University Card. My University email address. My student records. My pigeonhole.

And more to the point: the url of this blog. Take a look at the location bar. See what I mean?

They still haven't corrected anything. I guess I should go and tell them, but I suspect that part of the problem is that their database, as UCAS', can only hold a maximum of 18 characters. But still, I'd better get it sorted before I get my diploma, in 4 years. Somehow, I have the feeling that this missing N shall follow me a long time...

February 2009

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