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Sunday, March 1, 2009

"English" Names

The honest truth is that I could write a book on this topic, and still not be done. Who can separate the Nigerian man from his name? How can a Nigerian be anything if they have no name? Names are the heart and soul of our people, and by our people, I refer to ALL Nigerian peoples, and pretty much ALL African people. Our names have purpose, they have meaning, they are sacred, they can make you, or break you, win you fame throughout the land, or warn strangers that you are to be scorned and shunned, they are special and terribly, terribly important.....

Then this dude's mother comes along:

Meet Nigerian Vice-President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.

I feel deeply upset when I encounter unfortunately named Nigerians such as our dear Vice-President. I feel distressed because I do not know whether to laugh or to pity these individuals and somehow I feel that compromising and laughing politely will do more harm than good. Why oh why do wicked Nigerian mothers put me and others like me in this most uncomfortable situation by naming their children Goodluck, Godswill, Doesbest, Blessing, Peace, Gift, and my personal favourite....Bright? [For the record, all the Brights that I have met have been pretty dim]

When I was in Primary Four in Lagos, I actually had a classmate whose name was Pleasure. The kind of sick, twisted things that come to mind whenever I think about every time I had to enunciate her name leave me feeling uncomfortable and dirty. Just remembering that she was my friend makes me feel dirty, and then I was too young to even understand dirty in any context other than well.. actual dirt.

Pleasure...Pleasure... PLEASURE............................................ew

I feel like Bruce Almighty.

Imagine this friend of mine gets married and decides to spend a hot steamy night with her husband.

Husband: Oh Pleasure, you give me so much.....erm.....

I give up. I'm going to have to shower now. Look at all the psychological harm her parents caused me, and they don't even know it.

I remember her name was Pleasure Amaechi.... God save Igbo people from themselves, Amen.

While I see nothing wrong with giving children English, French, and other foreign names, I feel deeply disturbed realising that Dona, Philo, Vayo, Biati, and Cletus are NOT, as I previously imagined them to be, Igbo names, but in fact "English" names of various Roman and Latin derivation. I'm going to dish a piece of advice: If you don't know what it means, then it is best not to name your child that. When it comes to names, safe is ALWAYS better. Go with tried and tested names in your language. Everyone will thank you for it. Now safe does not mean preferring names of one ethnic origin over another, but if I ever met a Nigerian named Shaniqua I'd be mad as a motherfucker too.

On the flip side, you might be one of those with parents that just lost control with the Nigerian name(s).
Parents of Unsuspecting and Hapless Children: I know you're thankful to God and all that, and you are elated that He Has Blessed You With The Reincarnation of Your Forefathers and You Hope That Success and Favour Will Follow Your Child All The Days of Their Life, but stop and think. Will Egbewomiye Oluwaremilekun Osuntunde* fit inside a passport? Will there still be space for the visas and the photo? Will you be able to laminate the birth certificate at a local copy shop or will you have to take it to an art dealer for a waterproof glaze in order to keep it safe? All this and more are things that caring Nigerian parents ought to consider before punishing their children with unfortunate names that will most certainly sentence them to a life of pain and ridicule.

After reading all this you'd think you're pretty much set to name your Nigerian child without any mishaps. Guess again. Beware of the Double-Name. I'm a Neo-Traditionalist, and I too fear the double name.

Examples of dangerous double names:

Ikenna (Father's strength.... depending on how you pronounce it... also Father's Ass)
Ikemefuna (My strength should not desert me ... again, depending.... My butt should not disappear)
Anyanwu (Name of the Sun God .... depending .... Dead Eye)
Somadina (Do not let me live alone .... depending ... I don't want to sleep/lie alone - I'll leave interpretation of this one up to you)
Malachi (Who knows tomorrow ... depending ... You don't know God)

The list goes on. You have been warned.

So I guess I opened a can of worms, because people will try to defend their names fiercely, no matter how stupid they may be. And hey, you could argue that Goodluck really does have good luck, afterall he is the Vice-President of Nigeria, but it still isn't right to make something a human name just because it's a noun. In the same vein it is extremely inadvisable to call your child an adjective or *gasp horror shock and damn* an ADVERB just because YOU think it sounds nice. All you Lovinglies, Adorables, Godlies, Luckies, Diligents and yes, even you my Brights, I see you, and I laugh long and hard in my soul everytime you say your name.

*Yes, I know that is not what it means, but I'm just trying to illustrate my point.


  1. Blessing is okay, in my opinion. Gift is manageable. and interestingly enough, Philo = Philomena, and Vayo = Vio = Violet. Cletus is actually a real Latin name, I think. smh Nigerians can butcher any name, honestly.

  2. Nigerians and African Americans should never be allowed to name children without being supervised.

  3. LMAO @ Really Random

  4. hahaha.

    Virginity (not a Nigerian, but from Malawi)

    What can one say?


  5. We have got powerful, purposeful, meaningful, beautiful native names. I just wonder why people dont get it. I am all for modernalisation and everything but our food, our names , our fashion, our dance are darn good!

  6. Romanus, Friday, Monday and This is funny but at the same time disturbing... Not sure why parents do this to their kids... and the funny thing is some of these folks actually feel like their name is better than the traditional names... such colomentality man. Anyways... great blog. I'm always a fan of someone that speaks their mind :)

    Be sure to check out my blog,

  7. @Aribaba: So true. Colomentality still has a VERY strong grip over most Nigerians. How can people imagine that these horrible names are better than our names. Loving your blog.

    @Bumight: Glad you're enjoying this blog.

  8. LMAO at solomon, someone is actually called virginity?
    This is funny, but a nigerian called shaniqua? i'd be mad as hell too.

  9. if you think Charity, Romanus & co are bad, what of the nouveau-riche that want to show how 'americanized' they are by giving their kids names like Shontelle, Laquisha, Tanisha ... seriously?

  10. I get really annoyed when I meet Nigerians that mispronounce their own names on purpose to sound more western. For example Seun is suddenly Sean. I got into an argument with a friend that now mispronounces his last name in order to fit in at work. Shame!! I keep telling them, will Russians, Spaniards, Americans etc pronounce their names with a Nigerian accent for your sake? I think not.

  11. @Miss Fizzy: So true. That always upsets me.

  12. Those 'names' were not because of the thought of wanting a reincarnation of anyone in my family or anything related. Its a name with meaning that was made because of the death of someone. It stings to see it on a blog and not for something positive but for the cause of the 'flip side' of a coin. First and middle name? Seriously??
    Its really not appreciated.

    And yes it does fit in the passport.

  13. Once met someone called Accidentally