Of Names, and People

It took me several years to unlearn some things.

When I was much younger, people called me by my first name; Abiodun.

Abiodun literally means “born in the festive season”.

Now this is it, in Yoruba land, there is what we call “oruko amutorunwa”, that’s “a name brought from heaven”. It’s the name given to a child as a result of the circumstances surrounding its birth. This name is most likely adopted by the parents as the first name. That was how Abiodun was bestowed on me for being born early January some decades ago. (I’m old o).

You wonder where I’m going with this post. Abi, o ya, slow down.

There were some families in the neighbourhood when I was a child. These people liked to parade themselves as the more educated folks who spoke ‘Englis’ to their kids.

These were the people who gave me the English version of Abiodun. It sounded very close. It was almost impossible to argue against it. And many people preferred to call me by this English equivalent of Abiodun, which is…

Abbey!

Imagine, Abbey of all things. But there was no one to refute this semantic malapropism.

How can a boy be an Abbey? Eh, a home for monks?

Some people even exacerbated my confusion by adding other particles. Such thing as:
Abbey City. Abbey Lincoln. Abbey Judge, etc etc.

The inquisitive me picked up a dictionary much later in life, I think when I was in JSS1, checked up the word. I was so disappointed. But it was hopeless trying to persuade people to just call me Abiodun.

And when I changed residence in 2011, I introduced myself either by my second name; Solomon or my nickname; Ablad, both of which have a predictable reaction.

When I say Solomon, I get the response, so, do you like women? How many wives will you have. Like seriously, who would want to have more than a wife in this century?

And when I say Ablad. It’s either they corrupt the name or ask me the meaning. Truth be told, the meaning I had in mind when I coined Ablad in JSS3 has now been upgraded, though still in the same line.

The ritual is to tell people that ‘Ab’ is from Abiodun which I blended with the English word ‘lad’ to mean the young boy Abiodun who will grow but will forever look young.

But past its meaning, the name got so much fame in high school. People didn’t care about the meaning, just mention it and they knew whose identify was being mentioned. A classmate whose name was/is Abiodun wanted to steal the name. I was so angry with him. How won’t you be able to coin your own nickname, or at least allow friends to bestow one on you either as a reward for a feat, or a punishment for a misdemeanor? The yeye guy even went as far as using the name to ask one of our classmates out after graduation. He did it over the phone, and that one, thinking it was I, almost said yes. What he hoped to achieve with a fake identity, I won’t understand.

But I digress.

So, from Abiodun, to Abbey, to Solomon, to Ablad, people will always have a preset opinion of you. Some people naively believe bearing Solomon means I’ll have most of my life dedicated to the appreciation of God’s most beautiful creation, (a story for another day). But that is a lie.

Truth is, there is more to a name than just a means of identification. Leave Shakespeare alone, he was just an English guy, that’s why he could say “What is in a name, that which we call rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.

In Africa, we don’t just choose any name. “Ile la n wo ka to s’omo l’oruko.”

But beyond this, are you what people call you?

Someday, I will write on some Yoruba names and their meanings.

So long a post, right? So what’s your take?

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