Dear Uncle Sam, Can you help me?

Dear Uncle Sam,

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I know that you are busy with so many responsibilities. I see you on posters recruiting for the U.S. Army, in editorial cartoons standing next to the president, and, I even saw you recently on a street corner advertising a tax preparation service. So, I am pleased that you can take the time to help me out.

I would appreciate it if you could get the government to spell my name correctly. The correct spelling is MacHarg. Or, as I heard my mother say at least a thousand times when I was a child, “M as in Mary, a, c, capital H, a, r, g as in George” She said that over the phone. She said it at banks. She used that line whenever she had to tell someone how to spell our last name.

And, that worked fine for years, in spite of one letter she received once addressed to Mrs. No Charge.

Then, the government got computers. Since then, they cannot get it correct. Evidently their computer is unable to type a name in upper and lower case, so on my last several passports, it is spelled “MAC HARG” which, as you can see, is wrong. It doesn’t distinguish which letters (M and H) should be capitalized, and, for some completely unknown reason, it adds a space between the “C” (which should be lower case) and the “H.”

That space really throws people off. They’re not sure if my last name is Harg (or HARG), or MAC, or what. Recently at a hotel in another country they told me that the internet password was my last name. So, after many minutes of trying to get MacHarg (I even tried MACHARG) to work, I called the desk to check the information. They obviously thought I didn’t know how to spell my own name, and informed me that I was to use HARG, (my alleged last name!). One other time a hotel used “MAC” which probably left them wondering what HARG was. At least they were kind enough not to ask.

While you are at it, could you also get the state of Georgia to spell my name correctly on my driver’s license? They use all capital letters as well, but spell it as one word, “MACHARG.” At least they got the spacing correct. But by using all caps, which is copied by doctor’s offices, sales associates and others who want to do business with me, I end up getting all sorts of mispronunciations. Not that my name is easy to pronounce even when it is spelled correctly, but…it is tiresome to have your name called out in doctor’s offices or on the telephone as “Ma-charge,” “Ma-sharg”, or even “Mar-charg,” as it was the day I decided to write this letter.

Surely, it shouldn’t be too difficult for these agencies to reset their computers to use both lower and upper case letters as appropriate. In fact, I’m certain that my teen-age granddaughter could probably show them how to do it in five minutes.

Again, thank you for your attention to this problem. I appreciate your help. Hopefully next year we can chat when I see you on the corner pointing to the tax preparation service office.


Kenneth M as in Mary, a, c, capital H, a, r, g as in George.

P.S., I was also going to ask you for help in getting in touch with the Queen about the mistake on my father’s birth-certificate in England back in 1901. It seems they accidently added the letter “a” to the family name which previously was McHarg. He used the MacHarg spelling all of his life while all of the brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins and others went on using the McHarg spelling. But then I remembered that whenever I asked him about our ancestors, all he would say was that they were “the best sheep-stealers in Scotland.” I laughed at that, but with the coming of the internet was able to find out that the McHarg clan was a group of trouble-makers who stole cattle, sheep and who knows what else. So, perhaps we had better leave that one at rest for now.


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