I have a love hate relationship with names. The love bit is very straight forward, I love all Kenyan & African names in general. They just do it for me. If you tell me your Kenyan or African name I never forget it unlike with English names. The hate part is a bit complicated but I’ll try to my very best to explain it.
For some reason I can’t explain, I hate English names. I hate my English name. I know that I was named after my grandfather and I respect that but it still hate my English name. Why didn’t my parents just give me two Kenyan names or maybe just let me be named after my grandfather but minus his English name. Of course I would never tell them this. It doesn’t help that some people find my Kenyan name hard to pronounce and so they use the English one.
If you have a rare not so common name then you are probably used to people mis-spelling or pronouncing your name wrongly. In some instances the culprits read it straight from an official document or from somewhere where you’ve jotted it down but they still go ahead and mis-spell and pronounce it wrongly. I have had ATM’s, cheques, documents and other things reading Wamaitha, Wamathina, Wamatha and many others. On twitter some people read my name as Wamaitha and hence think I’m a girl and I have been hit on many times.
I have two names but banks and companies like Safaricom insist that I also use my family or rather my dad’s names and since my name is long and can’t fit in their documents the English name (which i hate) and my dad’s name (which I don’t hate but which is not mine) feature prominently. Now when for instance I send some people money via mpesa or they send some to me they become instantly confused and wonder who the sender or recipient is.
There are people with five names. I’m serious, five names. Apparently when they are born they get two, when they are baptized they get another and when they are confirmed they get another. That’s four names and when you put the family name it comes to five. I don’t quite get this name fest and in most cases they end not using all these names so I ask myself, what are all they for? Did I mention that three of these names are mostly English?
I think everyone is used to a situation where when a couple gets married it’s the woman that acquires the man’s last name. There is a new trend where the woman does not change her last name but actually adds her husband’s name to her existing ones. For instance if her maidens names were Mary Atieno Otieno then she becomes Mary Atieno Otieno-Mutua. There is also another new trend where the husband takes the wife’s last name. For instance Mutua will be Peter Mutua Atieno when he gets married. I’m very open-minded but I believe that there is a limit to everything.
Some names are just priceless and you wonder what the parents of that person were thinking when they were picking them. There is a South African football player named Surprise. Why in the world would you name your kid Surprise? That is a weird weird name or maybe it’s just me. I was watching the series American Gangster and there was someone on there called Amen Patrone. Some parents need name books because clearly they’ve run out of names. I was talking to my pal Switcheeks the other day and she told me that she used to share a desk in Primary School with a girl named Pracsadis Moraa. Let me not comment further on that lest i get carried away.
There are some parents who don’t tell their kids their government names for whatever reason. This is very dangerous because if and when these kids get lost, tracking their parents becomes a big problem. I was watching TV one day and this kid (who got lost during a school trip) was being asked the names of his parents and the conversation went something like:
’Baba yako anaitwa nani’ good Samaritan (What is the name of your father)
‘Anaitwa dadi’ (he is called dad)
‘na Mama yako’ (And your mother?)
‘anaitwa mum’ (she’s called mum)
‘na wewe unaitwa nani?’ (And what is your name?)
‘naitwa kamami’ (My name is kamami)
It would have been hilarious had the situation not been serious
Facebook is full of wierdos and they change their names like the weather. Imagine my alarm when Philip Onyancha (The Serial Killer) suddenly sent me a message telling how he loves my work. After awhile I realized that it wasn’t the real Onyancha but someone I know who had changed their name because they liked the killer’s name and everything. One of the wierdos has even changed her name to ‘People You May Know’. Damn Wierdos.
© james wamathai