Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Rhianna or Remi?

I'm sure you've heard the saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'....?

Well, in my experience, this saying rings true for most people who grew up in Nigeria and now live abroad.

It is when you have left home for some time that you truly begin to appreciate some of the simple things you took for granted - like suya; goat meat that actually tastes like goat meat; the earthy smell of sand after the rains; the feverish preparations for Christmas/ New year; the taste of jollof rice cooked over fire-wood; the ability to nip to your tailor and have an outfit specially created for you ................. *sigh*

You might have noticed that I have only highlighted the good memories *smile*

Well, that's a deliberate choice as I prefer good memories to bad ones. This is because the bad memories come alive whenever I return to Naija. *smile*

Anyway, before I digress......one of the things I have done to remind myself - and my kids - of my 'roots' is to give them traditional names. Each child's name was inspired by the events around his birth. I always love explaining what their name means to them because they then have a story to tell their inquisitive friends.

Like my kid's friends, I am also fascinated by the meaning of people's names - and the history behind the names. This is because I often feel that a person's name gives some insight into the parents' thought processes at the time the child was born - What the parents felt like.......What events occured around the time the child was born.........What the parents hoped the child would become in future .......etc

Source: http://www.fotosearch.com/
While I accept that every parent is entitled to choose their child's name, I have to ask why some Nigerians feel the need to name their kids after flash-in-the pan celebrities and random places, events or things. For example, I have actually come across Naija kids in London named Rhianna, Beyonce, Paris, Nefertiti, Winter and Tiger !!!

Why these names???.....when we have soooo many beautiful Nigerian/ African names to choose from????  Even if one has to choose a western name, I would think the choice of a meaningful  one would be better?

Don't get me wrong, I am not against western names. Indeed, my Catholic parents baptised me with an English name - along with a sackful of traditional names. However, I do find it difficult to understand how some Nigerian parents would prefer to name their precious children after things/ people that have no relationship to them, their culture or their background.

A fellow Nigerian (resident here) once told me that he felt that my decision to give my kids traditional Naija names was wrong! According to this man,  such names would 'hold them back in the western world as teachers and future employers would be biased against them whenever they saw their names'.

When he said this, I defended myself vigorously - saying that their names were chosen because they expressed............in our native language..........exactly how hubby and I felt at the time the kids were born!

I really wish I could run into that man again....to ask him if he's heard about how the name 'Barack Obama' has been an impediment to the personal and professional growth of a certain gentleman from Hawaii!! *smile*

Do let me know your take on this - traditional names or fashionable western names - what's your preference?


  1. So true about the absence and fondness. I also choose to remember the good memories of Naija coz whenever I remember the bad...hmmm deep breath.... it makes me cling to the west in an unhealthy way.

    Anyway, about the names thing, I think its good for kids to have names that would be easy to pronounce by everyone, and even if a parent is bent on a traditional name, then why not give the child an English middle name.

    One more thing, if you look at Ba-rack o-ba-ma, the syllables are sort of present in the English language and so it's an "easy" name. But there are some names that don't have pronunciations in the English language. At the end of the day you find those kids going by names that sound so different from their original pronunciation.

  2. You are right the bad memories come back when you visit naija.
    As for names, I so love my traditional name and I intend to name my kids traditional names as well, inface most of my friends know I have been toying with the idea of naming one of my kids oluwanifemi.. God loves me and obviously other names that relate to the situation surrounding their birth. I strongly believe that what you name your child follows them for the rest of their lives, so why take unnecessary risks.

    Definitely no harm in english names as well, as long as they have meaning. lol One of my cousins is called breakthrough.. i am not kidding, not even in yoruba, the whole word breakthrough.. but my aunt just lost her daughter who was nearly 2 and when she had another daughter plus other circumstances, she thought it fit to name her that. so yea...

  3. Tiger and Winter??? Oh wow...that's terrible...smh.
    I'm totally in agreement with you when it comes to giving children traditional names. I believe that one's name is tied to their destiny. Myself and my siblings were all born in the States and my parents gave us all traditional names, of course we got teased and asked plenty of questions about our names when we were younger, but once we understood the meanings of our names we were no longer bothered.
    I have cousins that their parents gave western names to when the were born and they later resented it...so yea...traditional names all the way! The is great power in names!

  4. TRADITIONAL names of course!..... i laughed at the name TIGER o!! ... seriously, do some Nigerians reason like the above-mentioned man?....it really surprised me!... WANT TO COMPLETELY WIPE OFF ONE'S ROOT? so perchance he/she relocates to 9ja for one reason or the other, won't they feel like fish out of water with such names? Like one i saw TABLE!...how can someone be called such!.. Names are very meaningful o. Hence GOD changed Abraham & Sarah names to reflect the blessings HE was about to bestow on them. My name is IBHADE.. & the full meaning is, I DID NOT FALL FROM PEOPLES MOUTH!...& I SHALL NEVER FALL UNDER OR THROUGH MY ENEMIES IN JESUS MIGHTY NAME AMEN!!!...*a big grin*

  5. I love my Traditional name and it's Godly meaning is amazing. I have an English middle that I NEVER use, most ppl are surprised when they hear my middle name in the middle of my super Igbo names. Why in the world would one purposefully give a child a meaningless name and why also must everyone conform to everything Western. Does everyone want to turn this whole world to western culture?
    I have lived in the states most of my life, and have come to realize that when one forgets who they are and where they come from, that is when self-esteem/identity issues manifest. Be proud of who God made you and the where you come from, he kinda did that on purpose.:)

  6. That word "goat meat" got me drooling..
    concerning the name thingy, I love my traditional name so much that I never told anyone my english name, everyone including my parents call me by my traditional name but as a baptized Catholic I needed an english name.I have always disliked my english name and I always told my Dad I wanted a change but he refused instead he got me those names/meanings book so I could see the meaning of my name which is very good too, since I started studying outside Nigeria I realized my english name is a savior to me, I mean you meet people with different cultures and dialect so I'd rather let them call me by my english name than change the heavenly meaning of my traditional name due to bad pronunciation, but on my way to Nigeria(home) I lock up my english name in my room at school. If you ask me I'd say both english names and traditional names are necessary. Just check online, buy those names/meanings books and find a very good befitting name. It would come in handy..

  7. @PRISM:
    LOL @'....whenever I remember the bad...hmmm deep breath.... it makes me cling to the west in an unhealthy way.'
    I guess its a constant battle we must fight so we dont 'cling' and forget our roots.

    I agree with the issue you raised about easy to pronounce names. My native language is full of vowels and that is a nightmare for Caucasians attempting to pronounce some of our names.

    I do see your point about Barack Obama's name.
    That is why my kids answer to a shortened easier-to-pronounce version of their Naija names.

    For example, my friend's son is called OLUWATOBILOBA. However, he answers to TOBI in school. That way his name is not 'assaulted' by poor pronounciation. *smile*
    Thanks for your comments.

    Totally agree re: 'I strongly believe that what you name your child follows them for the rest of their lives, so why take unnecessary risks.'
    Abi oh!

    RE: 'Breakthrough'. That is a serious proclamation and I bet that child will always live up to her name. If you doubt it, see our presido Goodluck. He has been extremely lucky in his political career abi?
    Thanks so much for dropping by.

    RE: 'Tiger and Winter'....Yes oh. I am still baffled everytime I hear the parents talking about them. Whenever their names are mentioned, I have to smile (secretly of course)

    *Nodding my head* re: 'I believe that one's name is tied to their destiny.'

    Re: 'Myself and my siblings ..... and asked plenty of questions about our names when we were younger, but once we understood the meanings of our names we were no longer bothered.'
    Thanks for telling me that. Quite reassuring.
    As I wasnt born here and my kids were, I often do question my actions and decisions so I can assess whether I am making the right ones.
    They havent really complained about their names but I do worry sometimes - as to whether they will be teased.
    Thanks again.

    Re: Tiger. Na so I see am oh.
    You know some naija want to be more Oyinbo than Oyinbo *hisssss*

    Re: the man I mentioned, I doubt he will EVER relocate to Naija because he NEVER has anything good to say about Naija. *sigh*

    LOL @Table!!!!! Na where be that?

    I looooove the meaning of your name. Soooo beautiful. You shall indeed NEVER fall under/ through your enemies - in Jesus' name. Amen.

  9. @COY:
    Re: the meaning of your traditional name = Amazing. I'm sure you are *smile*

    Agree re 'Why in the world would one purposefully give a child a meaningless name and why also must everyone conform to everything Western.' I guess commmon sense is not common *smile*

    Gbam! (Exactly) re: ....'when one forgets who they are and where they come from, that is when self-esteem/identity issues manifest.'
    Too true. I believe that this is one of the reasons some of our brothers and sisters are acting up - as they havent got any sense of belonging.

    While its nice to dip your toe in various cultures (after all, to learn is to grow); However, I absolutely believe that one should have at least ONE culture that you use as a point of reference with regards to lifestyle choices and life decisions.

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

    LOL @'That word "goat meat" got me drooling..'
    You sef...well, to make it worse, here it is again...GOAT MEAT, GOAT MEAT, GOAT MEAT!!! LOLLLL

    I see your point regarding 'since I started studying outside Nigeria I realized my english name is a savior to me'....
    I guess a combination of traditional and English names is more practical.

    Like you said, it would be a good idea for parents to find out the meaning of the English name before choosing it.
    Thanks for droppong by.

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  11. I know that there is definitely that mentality out there about giving one's children western names for all sorts of flimsy reasons. It's such a travesty and it lends some strength to that argument that due to the attitudes of some Nigerians and Africans generally, our languages and cultural traditions may be extinct by the next century! If they last that long.

    Both my children have Yoruba names. My parents gave me and my siblings Yoruba names. Of that - I am proud. Yoruba is a rich and beautiful language, as are all other African languages. We should all be proud of our cultural identity.

    Agree re: '... due to the attitudes of some Nigerians and Africans generally, our languages and cultural traditions may be extinct by the next century! If they last that long.'

    *Nodding my head vigorously' re: 'We should all be proud of our cultural identity.

    Unfortunately, Africans always seem to be tooo willing to ADAPT to others. While Africa is still dealing with the legacy of colonialism and apartheid; we are now having to welcome new 'investors' from the Far East. I now wonder if we will soon see African children with Chinese and Indian names *puzzled look*

    Thanks for your comments

  13. I stand with you a hundred percent on this! Names are very important and as such, should reflect your identity. I still remain Chukwuemeka Amakeze

  14. @EMEKA:
    Abi my brother.....
    Names are sooo important and meaningful.
    For example, from your name I could already tell that you must be a man of great deeds - so I went over to your blog and all was confirmed!
    Dalu *smile*

  15. Definitely 'sackful of traditional names' :) plus one English name o! There's a certain depth that most traditional Nigerian names carry which most of those 'funny' names lack. Well said Naijamum!


  16. @GBENGA:
    I hope you are already dreaming of the perfect names you will bestow on your twelve children when they arrive!! *cheeky smile*
    Seriously though, I'm with you when you said 'There's a certain depth that most traditional Nigerian names carry.....'
    Even the whole tradition of asking grandparents to contribute a name for the baby is beautiful.
    Thanks for commmenting.

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  18. Traditional...all the way! Modern traditional though.
    I think traditional names in the western world opens more doors of conversation and helps you stand out. Caucasians of this age are learning to appreciate and pronounce our Nigerian nams o. Let no one get things twisted o.
    Thanks for the awards *Big hug*
    Love lots

  19. @NOTMAD:
    Re: 'Caucasians of this age are learning to appreciate and pronounce our Nigerian nams o'
    Everytime I watch football, I notice the commentators pronounce really complicated names - not only Nigerian ones - properly!
    As for the awards, you deserve more. Your blog is fab!
    *bigger hug*

  20. Traditional names anyday... a while my dad introduced me to his colleague name HUSTLER MADU, I wanted to faint... why would anyone name a pretty girl HUSTLER???

  21. @P.E.T:
    LOL!!!! re: Hustler.
    I almost choked on my food when I saw that. What were the parents thinking? Anyway, it could have been worse. She could have been named JEZEBEL or FIGHTER !!!!

  22. Nice Post
    Names r so significant. Ur name is linked to your destiny. In the Bible, we see characters whose names had to be changed. Examplse are Jacob to Israel,Saul to Paul, Abram to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah. I don't know why celebrities give their kids silly names. Gwyneth Paltron named her daughter Apple. Can you imagine, if all the names in the world. Apple is a cute nickname, but not for a normal name. The poor girl will be teased wella in school by other kids.
    Whether one's name is western or traditional, what matter is that the name has a good meaning.


  23. @SHANDAY:
    Nice Post
    Fantastic examples from the Bible. Thanks for that.
    LOL @'Gwyneth Paltron named her daughter Apple.'

    I guess when one is toooo wealthy, you get used to people doing everything for you.

    When you then have to do something by yourself (i.e. name your own child), you are sooo overwhelmed that you then choose the simplest name eg. apple, chair, sky, etc

  24. Simple, if I can manage to pronounce names like "Schwarzenegger" and "mclaughlin" (i used to pronounce the "laugh" in it as, well, "laugh"!), then it's fair to ask people to learn how to pronounce my children's names.

    People always raise that issue of Nigerian names potentially barring children from succeeding in the West and I just shake my head for them. It's the low of lows in inferiority complex. I don't argue about such issues anymore. There are more important issues in life - name your child what you wish but don't complain about what I name mine. I should think that's fair enough :)

  25. LOLLLLLL @ "mclaughlin" (i used to pronounce the "laugh" in it as, well, "laugh"!)....I dont blame you.

    I murdered soooo many English names when I first came here eg. MARYLEBONE - I pronounced MARY-LAY-BONE instead of MARL-LEE-BUN!!! LOLLLL

    Agree re: 'It's the low of lows in inferiority complex'...I guess a lot of Naija/Africans still have self esteem issues???

    Thanks for dropping by.

  26. Walai!!! It is traditional name all the way!!! I cannot even over emphasize it. Especially in this side of the world, the feeling I get when I realize how exotic my name is inexplicable!...me, i cant give too much explanation for it, it sha remains trad. names.....all ...the.... way!

  27. @HoneyDame:
    I have an English name and I was fine with it....until I travelled abroad.
    Living outside Nigeria has made me appreciate my culture more!
    Thanks for dropping by

  28. i always joked about how people will say to me "mama shaniqua, omo yin ti yagbe o!" (meaning shaniqua's mmim, your child has pooed) lmao but the truth is, traditional names all the way o.
    My sister told me about a neighbour of hers who told her that she named her child "the joy of the lord is my strength" she thot the lady was joking and asked again like "seriously? the lady said that was d name. my sister was too schoked that she just blurted "that is a statement, not a name."lol.
    I have noticed that yorubas are beginning to give their kids over-long names that they wont be able to fill in forms sef!

  29. LOL @Mama Shaniqua
    That killed me LOl

    Re: the long names...I dont think it is only Yoruba people doing this. There seems a general trend to show one's 'roots' by choosing intricate names :))


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