Introduction to Name-ology – What is in a name?

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Let me start this piece of writing off with a wee humorous comment (insert Scottish accent). “Life is full of surprises, and they’re usually Zimbabwean,” says Khaya Dlanga, marketing guy for Coca Cola South Africa and a known person on South African social networks.

Zimbabwe is also full of Blessings, Hastings and even Settlements. In Zimbabwe Lovemore has a brother named God-knows, Innocent is clever, Clever is innocent (see what I did there?) and Excellence has a sister named Progress. In case you didn’t get the joke, those are all first names. So I pose the question, what is in a name? Do you even know what your name means?

In Namibia, John John is the same person, Paul is Simon’s last name and Gertrude is not the name of a vegetable. I don’t know how they do it in Zimbabwe, but Name-ology in Namibia is very simple.

Name-ology is the study of how names are assigned to individuals. In case you were wondering. I know what you’re thinking: “Name-ology, that’s totally fictional and made up?” And you would be right, but doesn’t it sound cool?

So shall we be begin the first class of introduction to Namibian Name-ology? Okay, let’s rock and roll. The easiest thing to do would be to just take a name out of the Bible, that’s how we ended up with people with first names for last names, like Ester Paulus and Petrus Johannes (Ester Paul and Peter John, if you are a born-free).

A lot of parents really don’t have time and some aren’t really blessed with creative brain cells, so the Bible is and will continue to be an inexhaustible source of names. Oshiwambo-speaking people are particularly guilty of name snatching from the Bible. That’s the reason why Maria is the most common female name in Namibia, if it’s not her first name then it’s likely to be her middle name e.g. Anna Maria.

The other trend is to name children after emotions and states of mind during the child’s birth. This is also used extensively by Ovaherero. It’s great, because a large percentage of these type of names are unisex and some can be adapted to the baby’s sex. That is how you end up with kids named Angula/Nangula (morning), Amutenya/Namutenya (afternoon), Uusiku/Nuusiku (night), Ndatega (I waited), Ndapandula (thank you/Grace), Ndapewa (I was given), Magano (Gift), Ndapanda (Happy/Delighted), Liinekela (Trust) and Tshuuveni (Hear it).

Usually the Otjiherero language names are longer, e.g. Uetuzemburukisa (You made us remember). The irony in that last name is of course how anyone can remember a name that long?

If you hear a fancy name, like Llewellyn, Neville, Jonathan or Rowen, then best believe that the individual is from Rehoboth or Keetmanshoop (south central and southern Namibia). They also have this trend of giving girls two first names, e.g. Sasha-Lee, Kay-Lee, Cindy-Lee or Anna-Marie (Cape coloureds in South Africa do the same).

If you hear a fancy English name, like Hopkins, Austin, Oliver or Wellington, then you’re dealing with an individual from the northeast of Namibia from the Okavango and Zambezi regions. You will notice, because the vernacular will suddenly become very loud and very fast.

Then there are those weird Namibian parents, who just go totally crazy and name their kids Kosovo, Moscow and Berlin. The irony is that most of these kids will never ever go to these places.

In Europe it’s the opposite. A kid, named Paris, was most likely conceived in Paris. The weirdest name I have seen thus far in my short existence is of course: ‘Twenty One March Ninety’, I kid you not. There’s a girl out there with that name on her identity card. They should have just called her Independence (See what I did there?).

As the world advances and globalisation spreads like a rash, you will find strange things. These days parents give their kids weird names. But what do you expect when these young people get their parenting advice from ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’.

Don’t be surprised if you come across a kid named South-East or named after a fruit. Life is hard enough without having a name that makes you a bully’s prime target.

In the old days, parents would decide on a first name and then the grandparents or an elder (uncle or aunt) would add a second name. That’s how you end up with a kid whose first name is Alexander and his middle name is Pombili (At peace).

Before I sign out, let me explain my name(s). The government knows me as Filemon. Family members over the age of 35 call me Tshalimba. My childhood friends know me as Malima, and now everyone knows me by my pen name Filemon-Fly.

There are two versions: the first one is simple. If you glance quickly at the Bible, you’ll notice there’s a book of Philemon in the Old Testament. But why is my name spelled with an F? One word. Home Affairs (okay, two words), someone probably made a typo. (This version is closest to the truth).

The second version is that I was named after Filemon Malima, Namibia’s first minister of defence. But when I was born Namibia did not exist as a country. It was still South West Africa and colonised by Apartheid South Africa (This version is false).

However, my childhood nickname does come from the first minister of Defence’s surname. They called me minister when I was young. People had high hopes for me. If only they knew that I ended as the guy who writes sarcastic drivel in his spare time.

I doubt that I will follow my namesake into politics. I’m not even sure if I will vote in the next election. FYI, Tshalimba was my paternal grandmother’s name. Yes, I am named after a woman, trilobite me! Earth scientists will get that last joke.

Anyways, that is the end of this lesson, you’re welcome. Till next time, stay out of trouble.

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