All in a name

In parts of Anglophone Africa, a generation ago, there were many parents who liked English so much that they picked interesting or random English words to name their babies. I have come across a lady named Address in Rwanda. When asked how she got that name she told me her father picked the word from a piece of paper written in English. Not knowing English and understanding what Address means, he thought it sounded nice and it became his daughter’s name.

There are many men with the first name of Kennedy in East Africa (I haven’t met a Nixon yet), among those born in the 60s. I am sure there are a few little Obamas in east African primary schools right now and someday there may be a lot of Hillaries.

One of our trainees has a last name on her badge that required explanation. If I remember well it was spelled ‘Magnififayi.’ I asked her where that came from, and once again, it was a parent (dad) who loved the English language so much that he called his daughters Magnify, Modify, Specify and Glorify. The man at the place of birth and deaths registration was probably as perplexed as I was. In an attempt to Africanize the name he added the ‘fayi’ part.

I love to ask people when I start a training to explain where their names come from as it helps me to remember them. These stories are so interesting and wonderful because in most cultures first names have a meaning. They could be the names of prophets or characters from the bible, names of Gods or Goddesses, names of the days of the week the child was born on, or names of saints on the calendar. I was told there are children in Francophone Africa who are called Fetnat – which was picked from a French calendar that indicated that the birthday had taken place on the day of a Fete Nationale, abbreviated on the calendar as Fetnat. But the ‘fy’ sisters are the best ones yet.

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