Monthly Archives: January 2014

The trouble with leigh is…


My name, Leigh, means meadow, which is a curious meaning to apply to a person although I do like the outdoors. Leigh and Lee are the same and traditionally, Leigh was for boys and Lee was for girls, but that does not seem to apply anymore, and obviously, I have the boy’s spelling and I am not.

I have never thought much about my name—it’s not an unusual name, and it is recognizable in the west, but in Singapore, it presents some problems. The locals have no idea how to pronounce ‘Leigh’ and I am usually called Leg, Lay or Layj, and other interesting creations. My solution to this problem was to switch to the other spelling of my name, Lee, which I figured would be easy for the locals as Lee is a common Chinese surname. This however, was a mistake.

In Asia, a person’s surname appears first so when I switched to Lee Cunningham, it was assumed that Lee was my surname and Cunningham was my first name. Asians also tend to have two first names, for example, Kong Weng or Wei Peng so my ‘first’ name(s) became Cunning Ham. I was therefore welcomed or introduced as “Cunning” or “Ham” for example, “Good morning, Cunning,” or “Hello, Ham”. At one place, I devoted considerable time patiently and clearly (with slow, clear diction) explaining that Cunning was not my name; my name was Lee, but the next time I visited, I was once again welcomed as Cunning.

I have reluctantly reverted to Leigh and now accept whatever pronunciation it inspires with a silent D’oh!

Back when I was employable and working as an executive, people would call and ask to speak to “Mr Cunningham”.  My secretary delighted in never correcting the caller so when I answered the phone with “Leigh Cunningham speaking,” they would again ask for “Mr Cunningham”. When I  repeated that I was Leigh Cunningham, this was often greeted with silence then “You’re a girl,” to which I would think, ‘well thanks for letting me know.’

My middle name is Kayrene, a name my mother created by combining her nickname and my aunt’s name ie Kay (officially Catherine) plus Irene = Kayrene.

I have several nicknames. My childhood name, still used by Steve, family and friends, is Leighzie. Steve has several other nicknames for me, but mostly he calls me Leo, which originates from The Paul Hogan Show. Leo Wanker was an inept daredevil stuntman (see Leo in action), and I have no idea how Leo the stuntman became associated with my good self—you would have to ask Steve regarding the commonalities he obviously sees.

Steve also calls me Baldrick or Balders for short. This originates from a British sitcom series, Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder and Tony Robinson as his dogsbody, Baldrick. Since I am now a fulltime writer, and unemployable :), Baldrick/Balders reflects my current station in life. I don’t believe there are any other similarities between myself and the ‘real’ Baldrick, although we do make Cappuccinos the same way.

Basically though, given the aborted efforts at my real first name, I will answer to just about anything.

Do you have a problem name? Do you blame your parents?


Contact Leigh at:


Email: leigh @

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham