What’s in a Name?

Having your name mispronounced is a cousin of being called the wrong name altogether. It carries with it a sense that you’re somehow not worthwhile enough to be bothered with.

-Elahe Izadi (xojane.com)

I’m Afoma, ah-foh-mah. I really wish I could explain the appropriate stressed syllables but I was never that keen on that part of the English Language. I do think that it’s the second syllable that’s stressed though. What’s your name?

Names are very important especially since they are vital for public identification and self identity. The problem is that like most things in this life, names can be quite complicated business. I’m so glad writer’s block did not let me write this until Kim Kardashian named her child (more on that later). I think I’ll talk about names (duh) , mostly types of names and how the public reacts to such names. Of course, the public is us, so maybe we’ll learn a thing or two about respecting people’s names.

He who shall not be named: Some names are difficult to pronounce and remember, especially when it isn’t yours or when it’s not your language, even if the name is from a Nigerian tribe. The Edos are popular for their long names. I stumbled upon a few of them recently and I was a bit intimidated. I’ll share, as usual; Aikaronehiomwan, Avenbuangbomwan, Enomwenmwonse. I found these three so difficult to pronounce. Feel free to have a go at them. The funny thing is with time, most people become accustomed to pronouncing these names, it just takes a bit of practice. Case in point; my friend in school was called Oritsegidenene and it was just plain impossible at first, but I got the hang of it with time. So, friends, practice these tongue twisters and try not to bite your tongue. African names need to pronounced with specifically stressed syllables which for some reason white people never get right. Since I’ve been here, none of them have pronounced my name right, but I let it go because I’m too lazy to do a hundred episodes of ‘repeat after me’.

Odd balls: This category is dedicated to celebrities who forget that their children may one day grow up and hate their names. Names like Apple, Blue, North, Camera, Puma, Denim, Egypt, Sparrow and more. I know you want your child to be special, I mean Kim and Kanye’s baby may well be the only girl in the world named North right now, but have some mercy on your child who will be a direction for the rest of her life. Life is hard enough for your name to be ‘North West’. Africans are also famous for naming their children after days of the week and while I’m not going to insult anyone’s name, my friends, please if you love the days of the week so much, try Nigerian names which mean ‘born on so-so day’. For example, Abosede- born on Sunday, Abiodun- born on a festival day etc. Aren’t these names richer than just plain Sunday or Friday? Try please. North is probably going ;

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Meet Me Halfway: In my opinion, some names are too… extra. Too cute, example Tiffany or Tracy. Tiffany will grow old and be someone’s granny- Grandma Tiffany. Its a little too cute, it’s almost funny. Then there’s too old: those names that you assume only old people have, except those people were once babies too *insert sigh*, examples? Matilda, Patricia. I find the idea of a baby ‘Matilda’ strange. Too common/popular. This is actually more of a problem here in Ukraine than in Nigeria; too many Olgas, Sashas, Tanyas, Oksannas *insert sigh*. I’m not saying they aren’t nice names, I’d just like to have a name three other people in class don’t turn around for. Finding a name for your child is a huge responsibility and I don’t blame a friend of mine who always joked that she’d name her children ‘Thing 1’, ‘Thing 2’ and let them pick out their names for themselves when they were old enough.

Meanings meanings: It’s my turn to confess. My name (at first glance) has one of the most embarrassing meanings ever known to man. I’ll share that later. I actually cringe when people ask what ‘Afoma’ means. It’s such a nice name when you say it, why do you have to ruin it all by asking unnecessary questions? I’ve actually told a few people in Ukraine that I don’t know what it means because I cannot be stressed. Give your children names with meanings. Rich, deep, beautiful meanings. Now, my name does have a nice meaning, but it requires that I explain it, so here goes *deep breath* It means ‘Good Stomach” and before you start to laugh, let me explain. My grandmother named me and what she meant was that I am from a good stomach (see? I told you). So, if you’ll give your child such a name, make sure you equip them properly with the meaning of their name.

In conclusion, I love African names and names from the bible so if you’re in the process of choosing names, those are good places to start and always know the meanings before you name your child ‘serpent’ or ‘thief’ or something.

And don’t laugh at other people’s names, even if it’s ‘North West’. Also, respect people enough to at least try to pronounce and remember their names.

Till later xx

  • Reblogged this on LONDON ENGLISH GDL.

  • AB

    Afoma is my third name.
    I always wondered why they’d name me “good stomach”
    Until I went to secondary school and met an Afomachuwuka, so I asked my mom if I was Afomachukwuka and she was like duh.
    Not duh, but she looked at me like I was supposed to know that. I really doubt till this day if I’m supposed to be just good stomach or “the good stomach of the Lord is greater”

    I love Names. I love to name inanimate stuff as well. My camera for instance, the first day I got him, I knew I wanted to call him Simon.

    I believe that if you’re important enough to someone, they’ll remember your name, pronounce your name right or at least try. Nothing is unpronounceable. Like some Yoruba people hear Eh-keh-neh, but go on to pronounce it as Ay-kay-nay which is really mind boggling because they have the proper Eh sound in their language.

    This has been a really long probably unnecessary comment, but yes, names are important, And our Nigerian names are so beautiful. My children may not like the names I’m going to give them though. Maximilian is on top of the list lol.

    • Thank you for cracking me up@AB….did you seriously ask that question?…I can’t even wrap my head around Afomachukwuka….

    • LOL omg! We’re near namesakes! Names are too important, really. Oh my, your poor son lol. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Great post Afoma as always!…I laughed at the point you started to explain the meaning of your name…. Names are indeed important…I have always been impatient with people(friends inclusive) who don’t value others enough to get the hang of pronouncing their names especially traditional….I think its plain disrespectful….it never ceases to amaze me on the other hand when individuals don’t know the meaning of their names because of parents who choose to express creativity with names they themselves sometimes can’t explain its meaning…I mean,Life is hard enough right?….I think the message here is more than noteworthy…Create and help reinforce identities with responsibility and respect….Love the quote at the beginning too..I’m stealing it with love…thank you for a refreshing read.

    • Thank you Lizzie! 🙂

  • we are so fortunate to have such beautiful and unique names 😀

    Btw, i just realized that the synonym of my name is Ada Ada 😀

    • Yes! You’re definitely right about unique! 🙂

  • Great post! My middle name is Ndeshimona which means ‘I have seen’. My first name, ‘Teleza’ is a form of Teresa or Theresia and I looked it up and it said it means….. ‘slippery’. When people ask what my name means here I tell them it’s a form of Teresa so they leave me alone. haha! But names are beautiful and there’s a lot of strength and symbolism behind them, especially African names.
    Oh, and I’m always surprised when people actually pronounce my name correctly. Most of the time they’ll say it wrong 5 times and I’ll eventually say yeaah.. you got it! 😛

  • deolu_1

    LOL afoma..u just made my day with this lovely piece..u slayed when u added that part about naming ur child serpent or thief,lmao..kudos xoxo

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  • haha! HiLARiouS!! Great post.

  • Ify

    Oh my! I was actually ‘googling’ names and meanings today because i had a telephone conversation with my aunt and she mentioned the name Linda meant serpent.

    Now i know some Lindas’ and i donot think they subscribe to this meaning. Some of the google searches mentioned Belinda to mean beautiful and attractive, i’d go with that meaning please.

    I found out that my Baptismal name on some google searches meant: i flower; flourishing; blossoming; prosperous.

    Oh well, my lovely traditional name is what i go by in public anyway and Im an advocate of beautiful traditional names with good meanings; literal or deep rooted meanings.

    So, Afoma i am pleasantly surprised and happy that i read your post today. Very well written. Keep it up.