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My Surname Is Cockburn And It's A Wee Bit Funny

Let's just say I'm diligent about staying hydrated and avoiding STIs.

16/01/2017 3:34 PM AEDT | Updated 16/01/2017 5:03 PM AEDT

Hey! My last name's Cockburn, what's yours?

I have always considered myself an extremely fortunate human being, but what's life without a few challenges?

For example, having the last name Cockburn (pronounced 'Co-burn' apparently, but who am I fooling?). I find myself writing this after being asked to recount all the times my last name has been hilarious. Which I can safely say has been on numerous occasions.

My employee ID is a joke.

Alexander Cockburn
C'mon, really?

What do I enjoy about having the surname Cockburn?

  • I get to sit down and write this.
  • I can make myself seem funnier than I really am by throwing my last name into the mix.
  • At 26, I still hear new potential nicknames -- my favourite one thus far would have to be "Vagfreeze" (the inverse of Cockburn, if you were struggling with that one).
  • I couldn't get a Year 12 school jersey with my last name printed on the back as it was considered an offensive word. ($80 was a bit much anyway.)

One thing I always like to say after someone finds out my last name is: "High school was a fun time." Which, for the most part, it was. But it was also character building.

I remember one English teacher who would love reminding everyone of my last name every time she read the class roll.

"Jess?" "Kim?" "Peter?" "Alex Cockburn?"

Thanks for that.

And I used to dread the look of puzzled intrigue from a substitute teacher as they'd read my full name out.

"Alexander... Cockburn?"

(Sniggers from around the room)

"Yes, that's me. It's pronounced Co-burn."

A somewhat futile response, but one I've stuck by.

As I look back, I realise that being blessed with such a surname has actually enabled me to respond to insults in an efficient manner, an attribute I feel is very important with my group of closest friends. Being a Cockburn is a platform for insulting others in retaliation.

I enjoy spelling my last name out to receptionists and them informing me how it reads phonetically.

Them: "Oh, so it's Cock-burn."

Me: "Yes, but it's pronounced Co-burn."

Them: "Okay..."

Most of the time I just accept defeat and say straight off the bat that my last name is Cock-burn. That way it's done and dusted and I don't have the frustrating exchange, trying to explain why I said Co-burn in the first place.

Once in a blue moon, someone will recognise that Cockburn is pronounced Co-burn. I'm usually shocked, flattered and appreciative all at the same time.

Sometimes I think that I should raise awareness for the correct pronunciation of my last name, as a way of protecting those to follow my doomed lineage. But then I think about all the worthy causes that are actually worth raising awareness for. I also think that if I had to put up with it, you other Cockburn's should to.

Did you know there is a place in Australia called Cockburn?

It's in rural South Australia, has a population of 25 and looks like my worst nightmare. But it's also pronounced Co-burn.

A resident at an aged-care facility I used to work at was named Mr Cockburn. I asked 94-year-old Mr Cockburn if the nicknames ever stopped.

He laughed and said no as he walked at a snails pace beside me, hanging on to a four-wheel walker and dragging a hemiplegic lower limb behind him.

I pondered hearing Vagfreeze, Penis-blaze, Cockers and Cocky-B for the rest of my life.

I guess my last name is able to turn even a mundane outing to the local golf club into a memorable occasion. Apparently Cockburn is too rude to be displayed on my entry receipt.

Alexander Cockburn
Too offensive to print.

But my last name can ease the tension at times. Most prominently, minutes prior to going under general anasthesia for a urethroscopy.

The anaesthetist openly laughed at Cockburn and called it ironic. I suppose knowing I'd wake up in an hour with a burning pee hole did make it hugely ironic.

And let's just say I'm diligent about staying hydrated and avoiding STIs -- I don't want to be subjected to more jokes than necessary.

Last week I woke up after knee surgery and the combo of Alexander Cockburn and Dr Rimmer written next to each other on the patient file was a good laugh. Maybe because I'm a child, maybe because I was high on fentanyl.

Alexander Cockburn
Go on, have a laugh.

I pointed it out to the nurse, who clearly questioned whether it would be inappropriate to laugh at the two names side by side. I deemed it appropriate.

In my teenage years I did get sick of my last name. It's not surprising I'm no stranger to;

  • Incorrectly spelling my last name to people to avoid hearing Cock-burn
  • Not signing up to loyalty programs so I don't have to spell out my email which contains my last name
  • Being asked if my cock actually burns

One thing I have heard more than once is: "You know what? You pull off your last name."

What. Does. That. Mean?

Sometimes I think I'll change my last name to Smith. That way, if anyone calls me Cockburn again, I can turn around, wave a finger in a sassy manner and sing 'That's Not My Name' by the Ting Tings.

Do I like my last name? I still don't know.

I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with Cockburn.

I bet even after reading this you are still pronouncing it as Cock-burn, aren't you?

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