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

Y: (laughing)

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.


Chxta said...



Names are a gift that should signify the path a child will take. They help a child and all those around them know the child's heritage.

When naming all three of our children, we made sure they had Yoruba names because it will make them distinct in the U.S. I had a teacher that constantly called me Ms. Fajita, and each time he did, I corrected him. Noone in my class ever dared to mispronounce my name. Why should I forfeit my inheritance and heritage over any person who has no respect for me to learn how to properly pronounce my name? My children will develop character when they meet people who can't pronounce their name and they will learn that their heritage is beautiful, not something to be replaced or embarrased about. (Sorry for the lecture).

Ms. Catwalq said...

Solomonsydelle has said it all!!!
Carry go my sister!! O ba furo all those caucasian wannbes
Like u said, as if the white man will change to fit into our culture.
they don't even learn our language. Disgos

ijebuman said...

"They help a child and all those around them know the child's heritage"

the exact point i make when i lecture people on the dangers of trying to "fit in" at the expense of our rich culture and heritage.

Anonymous said...

Ijebuman ,ur post is maad on point!!
my sister and her husband live in the US and re ridiculously proud of the fact that they have an english surname and the kids get called by their baptismal(read oyinbo)names...this issue has never been brought cos everyone in my fam is like whatever mkes u happy but this is too true! Y the h£"$£"$% will you try to erase a part of who you are? totally going to screw with the kids' identity in a few years.
That said, I do havean oyinbo first name(as on passport)though wth a konk Ijebu surname and I notced at my alst job, the oyinbos seemed to think iwas different from thr other none english named africans, not fair. My hubby on the other hand does not find it funny having to correct ppl over and over again per his name pronounciation and the pity of it is that its one of those simple 2 sylable yoruba names....
enough said, though I'm catholic, i've just decided tonight after readign this, ehn, i no go use style give my chuldren(yest unborn but coming lagbara oloun) oyinbo name in the 'name' of baptism.
Thank you, bows out

Anonymous said... name online when i post blog comments is always "Anonymous". I dont consider myself anonymous, because i visit the same sites. always. And i write the same way. always. so, if the blog owner if he or she cares can pretty much always figure out what i'm saying me, that is, Anonymous. My online name. this post however is begging for my other name.. its XXXXXXXAXXXX. and my 3 kids in the united states all had additional time to complete the kindergarten challenge of knowing how to spell your name by the 3rd or 6th week, (cant remember now, its been so long), but learn it they did and its part of how fabulous they all are. They have this wonderfully intimidatingly long Yoruba name that tells the world who they are, first. Every other thing comes second. Oh, and just btw, their 1st names are not amy ted and britney, even though i wont be specific as they are minors...
[ so much for my earlier "my name is Anonymous" speech... i lost my nerve, took out my name (my husbands name really, cos i guess i must protect the innocent..or myself as the case maybe]. Enjoy small small