The online raves and rants of an Ijebu man in London
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Thursday, September 06, 2007
"Don't care where you come from as long as you're a black man you're an African" - Peter Tosh
so i was having a discussion with my friend Y at a party the other day when his young daughter who is about 4 years old came over, i started talking to her and then asked her what had name was, i already knew her name but i wanted to hear how she pronounced it.
Imagine my shock when she said her name was 'joanna', i thought she was joking, thinking it was some nickname she had picked up in school, so i said i thought your name was xxxxxx (the beautiful Yoruba name everyone calls her)
she said na lie o, her name na joanna
I then turned to my friend and our conversation went along the following lines;
me: i was at her naming ceremony, which one be joanna? are you a kool and the gang fan or what?
Y: thats the name she is called in school
me: (surprised) really.. sebi we both made fun of X claiming he was trying to be British by force when he named his kids after members of the royal family?
Y: (now slightly embarrassed by my accusation) we decided to give her an English name so she could blend in at school, we've told her to use her English name when she is among white people and to use her Yoruba name when she is with Nigerians.
me: that's interesting, so why did she tell me her name is joanna? I'm not white
me: God knows you're confusing the poor kid, there's nothing wrong with her name, it's a common Yoruba name so I don't really understand the need for it.
Y: but the teachers may find it difficult pronouncing her Yoruba name
me: then you bloody teach them how to pronounce it, you don't see Asians naming their kids John Patel because other people find their names difficult to pronounce
Y: we don't want other kids making fun of her name
me: hello!!!, you live in east London, i'm sure there are plenty of kids with foreign names in her school
Y: (calls kid over) come and tell uncle your Yoruba name?
joanna: (suddenly becomes shy and refuses to say a word)
Y: so your son doesn't have an English name?
me: why should he? if an oyinbo man living in naija has a kid there, do you think he'll name his kid 'chukwuemeka' or 'oluwatimilehin'???
I think there's a misconception among many Nigerians that anglicising your name (best one I've heard is someone called "GBenga" now calling himself "Ben") or using an English name lets you "fit in" and improves your chances of employment.
If adopting English names really made any difference then people of Caribbean origin should have the best economic opportunities compared to other ethnic minorities.
Of course you can name your kid whatever you want, however if you choose to give your kids English names then you shouldn't complain when they grow up and turn their back on their culture.