Wednesday, 10 June 2020

What's in a name?

Maybe I have just been locked in my house for too long, but I really think that today's events would have angered me whenever they had happened.

It is really very simple.  Way back in April I heard that ProDirect Running were allowing people to personalise their range of parkrun apricot t-shirts.  What a brilliant idea, I thought, a way to show my support for parkrun during the lockdown closure of all parkruns and to support them financially.  I ordered a t-shirt for my 16 year old (personalisation 'I still hate running') and one for me, the personalisation is shown in the photo below 'running dick'. i.e. one of my favourite hobbies and my surname.  The shirts arrived, we loved them.  We got to thinking about how we could justify buying more.  They aren't cheap - but they are good quality, so you are getting what you pay for.

Chatting online with a running buddy one evening we were bemoaning the fact that every single race we have entered is cancelled, including the wonderful Endure24 which, having taken part in as solo runners in the past, we were entering as a pair for the first time and now won't get the chance to run until June 2021.  Our team name, because we couldn't think of anything better, was just our surnames.  Team Bigg Dick. We were talking about getting team kit organised when I had what I thought was a good idea, we could support parkrun and get good quality kit at the same time.

I did the order.  I waited a few days, far longer than I waited for my first order, but that's fine, they are busy, delivery services are working overtime at the moment.  What I didn't expect was this email:

I am contacting you today in regards to your parkrun order. 

Unfortunately, we are unable to personalize your request due to the offensive language that has been used. Can you please provide an alternative and we will be happy to update this for you.  

If you have any further queries, please feel free to contact us via Pro:Direct Live Chat or via a reply to this email.

Best Regards,


I emailed back.  I was cross. For years we have had to fight automated systems because of our surname.  My daughter was blocked from her own school's computer system for using her surname when trying to set up a folder to save her work, my oldest son was bullied at school because of his name and suffered long term consequences - but the people telling him his name was offensive were children, not adults.  I pointed out that they had already printed my name on a t-shirt, but just got a reply saying they 'were not able to personalise the item with the current choice of word.'  I realised that I hadn't actually been told which word they objected to... maybe I had jumped to conclusions... maybe it was the other shirt I had ordered for Husbando ('I'd rather be in Vegas') that was the sticking point.  So I asked for clarification.  Apparently they are not able to print 'team bigg dick' on a shirt.  Clearly they are 'able' to - they just choose not to.   ProDirectRunning  still have not explained what the actual problem is.  I have reminded them that they are simply our surnames, one of which appears on the order and which they had no problem in printing on an address label.

I am livid.  If my name was anything else it wouldn't be an issue.  And I really don't understand why my name wasn't offensive in May but has suddenly become so in June.  It is ridiculous not to allow me to have my own name printed on an item.  Probably just as well I am such a mediocre runner - imagine if I was a successful runner and ran with my name on my bib rather than a number - would I be banned from races.   I am surprised the BBC allow Cressida Dick to have her name come up on the screen... and the sci-fi author Philip K Dick ('Do androids dream of electric sheep?/Bladerunner') must worry about having his name scrubbed off his book covers.  Heck, I'm pretty sure I have name badges with my 'offensive' name on them that I've worn when dealing with the public... whatever were my employers thinking?

All we wanted was our names on a shirt and to support parkrun... instead I just feel really upset and angry.  It isn't very nice to be told that your name is offensive.  I'm a Dick and proud of it.

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