THE CULTURE OF NAMING
By Moh’d Ibraheem Ibn Agbajay
What’s in a name? Is it merely a simple identity marker to different you from the next person or is there more to it? Every culture of the world has its own unique motivation and reason for chosing names. Names like Hazard, Stone, Moses, Ogundaisi, Abdullahi etc go a long way in reflecting orientation of a people, be they religious or materialistic.
The Yorubas believe that “Oruko a maa ro ni” that is, a child behaves in accordance with the meaning of his/her name (I believe it is the same for the Ibos as well). For this reason, Yorubas give their children sensible and meaningful names like Ayomide, Oluwaseyi, Temidire, Omokayode etc. Islam also teaches that children should be given names relative to God’s Beautiful Names, or given names of prophets or pious predecessors. So the task of choosing a name is ordinarily a simple, albeit careful one.
However, in this 21st century of ours, particularly in Nigeria, the simple business of choosing a name has been turned into a rather complicated one. It is not uncommon to find couples having heated debates about which names to give their child. Nor is it rare to see friends trying to outdo each other in giving their children ‘uncommon’ names. Now the names they end up with mostly baffle me and I sometimes wonder if two heads are really better than one. I proffer a few examples.
I once asked a student for her name.
“My name is Naija”, she quipped happily
“What? !!”, I asked incredulously. “Can you please spell it?”
And she goes “N.A.I.J.A”
Now I don’t call that patriotism. I call it foolishness. That child may end up cursing the parents after she ends up being the butt of her friends’ and colleagues’ jokes.
Sometimes ago, I had to conduct an aqeeqah (Islamic naming ceremony) with some alfas in my area. On getting to the venue, we asked the father what he wanted to name his child (a bgirl).
“Alisha” he replied
“Alicia? As in Alicia Keys”, I asked aghast.
“No. Alisha”, he retorted, and this time he spells it.
“What does it mean? “, I probed further thinking I’ll learn something new.
“I don’t know”, he responded nonchalantly. “I got it off Google”
Now I don’t call that tech-wise. I call it stupidity. What if the name means Pig or Lizard or even Harlot in some language?
The other day, my boss attended a Christian naming and came back to tell us that the child was christened “Praise The Lord, Halleluyah”
“That’s a complete sentence” exclaimed I
“Na so we see am oooo”
I don’t call that religious commitment. I call it overzealousness. How is that name going to fit in an international passport?
And then the trend of naming children after those who are not worthy role models. Girls are now named Latika after the Indian prostitute in “Slumdog Millionaire”. Raihaanahs are fast morphing into Rihanna after that slutty singer who proudly calls herself “Good girl gone bad”. It’s no longer Shaakiroh but Shakira, after yet another slutty singer. And the list goes on. Melo la fe ka ninu eyin adipele?
Giving a child a meaningless or complicated name does not make him/her better or anymore unique than those with regular names. It is advisable to stick to the path of our forefathers on this one (not everything should be technologised). But if you insist, then I have a nice array of unique names that have not been used. Try:
Esu Laalu Ogiri Oko
The first and third actually sound nice. Any child bearing any of these names is sure to stand out.