I am Kai Syng Tan (she/her/they). Allow me to break down this exotic name slowly for you. It’s good to be clear. If after reading this you still don’t get it, ASK — it is more offensive to guess and get it wrong (see small gallery from plethora of examples below – are you a culprit?), so hear it from the horse’s mouth. I don’t bite [too hard]

Surname: Tan (rhymes with ‘farm’, not ‘tan’ the way ‘sun tan’, ‘tangent’ etc are pronounced. Note too that it is not ‘Tang’. That’s a different surname- close, but nope. Yep you know other Tan-s. So do I. There are billions. Nope, I am not related to all of them, and I haven’t re-produced any [that I know of]).

Name: Kai Syng (yep, both of them are my ‘first name’).

Call me: Kai (if you can pronounce ‘sky’ or ‘why’, why can’t you say ‘Kai’? ‘Kay’ is not okay, the same way I don’t ‘chinesefy’ your name, and Kai is a name for boys and girls in Germany, Scandinavia, and Japan and elsewhere too) or Kai Syng ( the latter is read as ‘sing’; both parents left school by 16 + English is not their first language + postpartum s**t that’d have led to 4 small+large bodybags + my dyslexic father had 3 jobs = there were a few more things to work on than to ‘rectify’ the spelling of my name for your benefit so stop complaining; they did have high hopes as Kai refers to victory, and Syng glory, so I am ‘glorious victory’. Clearly).

Correct: Kai Syng Tan (all three, no hyphen), Dr Tan (although this was the name of our doctor at the neighbourhood clinic), Tan Kai Syng (this is the sequence when not inverted to fit Western conventions of what and where ‘last names’ are placed).

Incorrect: Kai Tan, Kai S Tan, Kai Sington (!), Kai-syng (with a hyphen), Kai-Syng (with another stray hyphen), Dr Syng-Tan (how many times must I say that there are no hyphens in my name?), any other combination or sequence etc that you can see on IMDB.com for my films or journal publications by co-authors who didn’t check with me (why not?).

Tip: Ask if unclear. Do not be shy. Nicknames and other name-calling may exist.

Caption: Still from keynote lecture What Should 2050 look like? A Love Letter to Cinema (Singapore Arts Week 2021).