Kenyan women losing it in the quest for fancy foreign names

You may have noticed that kids no longer go by conventional names like Gladys, Beatrice, Protus and Alex. Neither do they have such commonplace names like Mary, Anne, Carol, Dennis, John and Paul. Thankfully, out-of-the-way names like Alphaeus, Truphena, Dickson, Bernard and Tabitha have disappeared from our midst.

I am grateful to my mother for not giving me a name like Ignatius. I cannot imagine approaching a woman, much less seducing her, with such a name. Silas is a good name, besides being uncommon. However, not many people in my generation as are as lucky.

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Could this be the reason women are going for fancy names they pick off movies and TV series? I mean, just about every kid born lately is Kylie, Sheryl, Nielsen, Kelsie, Kieran, Ryan and other imaginative names more apt somewhere in the US than in a Buruburu household.

What these mothers fail to learn is that today’s fashionably ‘cool’ names are tomorrow’s disturbingly bizarre names. Just step back for a moment and consider how cool a name like Sharon, Seanice, Kevin or Bryan was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then fast-forward to how embarrassing it is to be a 25-year-old Bryan!

Women hate their names. Nearly half of my female Facebook friends have altered their names in one way or another. Mostly, they slant their real names towards what they think is more appealing. So, Teresia becomes Trizza, Elizabeth is Lizzy, Pamela is Pam and Caroline is sexed up to Carole or Carol.

Unlike women, men are never weighed down by such pretensions. Even my friend Abednego introduces himself as such, caring less for the well-trimmed eyebrows raised by women over his rather unusual name. I’m a partial believer in nominative determinism. For some people, their names eventfully determine their fates. Mandela’s clan name Rohlihlahla means ‘trouble’ in Xhosa, and many people attributed the many storms he weathered to the name, as he tells us in the opening chapter of his autobiography.

Zambian first president gave primary school teachers Kaunda suits back in the day. And the name Obama seems to have given the Obama siblings a lifeline ever since he became the most powerful man in the world. Now, the whole clan is writing books, claiming they are trying to carve an identity for themselves.

In the days gone by, names had great significance. That is why we were named after our ancestors and heroes. Deep in the hilly countryside of Kisii, there are grown-up men called Kenyatta. These were the common bonds that bound the community and even the nation together. The names played a great deal in empowering individuals. If you were named after a big fish, you had to live up to the name’s billing. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. Mothers now prefer foreign names that have no significance. What is a Kylie or Nielsen? Anyone?

I will not trivialise the traumatising pain of bearing a name like Florence or Alice. It certainly calls for great fortitude to carry such a label your entire life. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t abandon our traditional names. Even though Christian and Western names aren’t bad, but neither are our traditional names, even though some may sound quite unappealing.  But they constitute part of our rich heritage.

As a country, we borrow too much from the West that it is impossible to do anything on our own anymore. Women are number one perpetrators in this regard. Their fascination with everything foreign is unhealthy and despicable when we go to the lengths of denouncing our names. It is a dangerous path we are taking, one that even kilsl locally grown enterprises, because we would rather spend an entire afternoon gossiping in a ‘Western’ coffee house than sample the a truly home-grown brew from a local cafe.

Our country will be richer if we embraced ourselves more. We need more kids with Swahili names, racially unbiased names, as well local ones. Until we attain that cultural self-belief and maturity, we will remain mentally colonised.


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