Letters with a Prayer

ROOTS

Rev. E. Smith while advocating for the adoption of Ibibio as a written language in Nigeria said, “Every language is a temple in which the soul of the people who speak it is enshrined”. My people also believe that Language mirrors society and names are a reflection of who you are as a people. No wonder my grandmother made it her personal duty to ensure I communicated with her using only my mother tongue and my relatives showered me with so many names as a child. Some I remember, some I don’t until I am being called.

The importance of a name cannot be over stressed to most Africans but for a few who are over- diluted, it is necessary to sit them down with a keg of eye opening palm wine and The Fray’s How to Save a Life playing in the background as you break down a name’s importance.

As a child born in the 20th century, I grew up reading books that had names like Jane and Annabelle in them and I preferred those books to ones that had names like Ezinne and Itoro. Foreign names just had this ‘posh’ ring to it and I remember starting to pick out baby names for my future kids at age 6. From Emmanuella (Emma) to Samantha (Sam) to any other foreign name that had a nice tune to me and had a ‘fine’ short form. Of course, the Euphoria that came with Foreign names started to faze off as I grew older not because I grew wiser in that aspect but probably because suddenly, everyone was either bearing them or knew someone that knew someone who bore such names.

I have a friend named Ayomikun which is yoruba for ‘My Joy is Full’. He was the first person to really draw my attention to the use of nick-names. I am well known for giving people nick names and adding or removing from a name not in an insulting way but in a friendly and… {permit me to say,} intimate way. Example, I call my friend Chinelo ‘Chi-obong’ because it makes me feel like we are closer than just friends but sisters. However, when I call Ayomikun ‘Kunkun’ (just to tease him and because Kunkun sounds like the name of a beautiful bird) he doesn’t like it and he always stated his disapproval politely and with a smile. After series of name calling, I finally decided to ask why he didn’t like the name besides the reason that it sounds like a girl’s name and he responded to me with something like this, “The ‘Kun’ in my name means ‘Full’ so when you say ‘kunkun’ it could mean I am full of anything both the good and the bad; like full of sorrow. My name specifies joy so leave it at that”.

That response was all I needed to really understand how much people respected their names and it got me respecting mine too. The saying ‘treat yourself just as you want others to treat you’ can also be applied to how you treat your name.

I remember being asked by my one-time boss on my first day at work what my name was, and when I told her, she shook her head and asked if I had an English name because that will be easier for her to pronounce. Even though I gave her my English name, I still insisted on being called by my First name. I mean, how hard can pronouncing a 5 lettered name be. After a while, she finally dropped the English name and picked up my first name.

My surname is another issue in the ‘name-calling’ world. You see my surname is spelled as ‘Nta’ and this name has had people giving me weird looks and asking stupid questions that they find funny like “Does your Father own N.T.A tv station? hahaha” or “What Chanel are you? Chanel 5? Hahaha” I don’t find it funny but I had always giggled and given a polite ‘no’ answer even though deep down I wanted to grit my teeth and respond with something like this, “I believe I didn’t put a full-stop in between my name, it is pronounced Nta \N-ta-h\. It is a name not an initial dummy and it existed before Nigeria was even created”. However, since Ayomikun’s statement, I started to take the correction of my name more seriously. I did not giggle but I was still polite when telling them that my name isn’t an initial and if they insisted in being silly, I simply ignored and acted as though they weren’t having a conversation with me.

Malcolm X an African-American activist had changed his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X. When asked by Mr. O’Connor in an interview if that was his legal name and if he went to court to get that name, he simply said No because he didn’t have to go to court to be called Murphy or Jones or Smith. He went ahead to add, “My father didn’t know his last name. My father got his last name from his grandfather and his grandfather got it from his grandfather who got it from the slave master. The real names of our people were destroyed during slavery. The last name of my forefathers was taken from them when they were brought to America and made slaves, and then the name of the slave master was given, which we refuse, we reject that name today and refuse it. I never acknowledge it whatsoever”.

From Malcolm’s statement, I have come to understand that the moment you acknowledge a name as yours, whatsoever comes with that name follows you. He understood that for him to acknowledge his forefather’s slave master’s name would mean to acknowledge that he is still a slave mentally.

Don’t get me wrong now, I am not against the use of pet names or nick names or English names even though I am an advocate for the use of native names. All I’m simply trying to say is, whatsoever name you choose to give a person or yourself, make sure it has a good and reasonable meaning. Let’s learn to respect our names and other people’s name for a Name is more than a bunch of Letters hooked together to create rhythm.

  • It is an Identity
  • A Proclamation
  • A Blessing or A Curse
  • A Chosen Path
  • A Declaration
  • It is a Prayer.

cheers_palm_tree_sunset_wooden_coaster_mitercraftwoodencoaster-r77c96ae097af49b9abbbc135852dc7c6_zz78j_324  Cheers to new Knowledge *Sips Palm Wine (Umqombothi)* .

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10 thoughts on “Letters with a Prayer

  1. Well said Idee😘! “Your name plays a big role in moulding you as a being”. We are in a society where no one wants to take correction especially the Youths, they call you a name, when you try to correct, they just look at u like u just acted stupid and still call you whatever they wish.

  2. I feel that one’s choice to not pronounce a name correctly is rooted in laziness. Your name is 5 letters, 3 syllables, I am sure the word ‘pronunciation’ even has more syllables. I sincerely hope that we care enough about one another to actually put a bit of effort into things as seemingly little as a name which actually has a profound impact on us.

  3. Very insightful piece Aidee, well said, sadly some pple out there are embarrased to disclose their tribal names when asked, they’d rather give names they just fancy…..this would go a long way.

  4. Hey Idara. it’s amazing how we both share similar thoughts on this subject. My name is Ayopo and my head ‘wines’ when my mother looks at me and calls me that. definitely won’t be thesame if my name is ‘Jones’. but really, did your grandparents own NTA? lol. I hope you understand my joke.

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