The Story Behind the Name

Born and bred Yoruba, entrenched in the culture of my people; I became identified as a member of that tribe and the greatest tell of all…my name! Named on the eighth day as is customary, I received many names, given by immediate and extended family alike. The nomenclature that stuck is that preferred by my parents. This in no way nullified the names given by other members of the family, and as is commonly practised, they called me by that which they had dubbed me whenever our paths crossed. In the course of growing up, it was explained to me the reason these folks delighted in calling me by names that I didn’t know belonged to me. One of my favourites is that which my late grandmother fondly called me, my mom uses it occasionally (as the mood takes her) and it always brings a smile to my face.

The opportunity to give a name to a new born is made available to everyone present on the fateful day. As a result of this custom, I had the opportunity to give name baby brother! Unlike others though, I don’t call him by it and as I type I can’t seem to recall that which I proudly bestowed on him ages ago.  So a child can have as many (or as few) as the number of people present at the naming ceremony. If particularly blessed, some people (especially the elders!) can bestow as many as two names on the baby. Thus, that tiny person can end up with fifteen (or more!) names by the close of the procedure. From what I recall, yours truly has a tally of about twenty-something and that’s the truth!

As the saying, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ so is the naming culture of the peoples of the south-west of Nigeria. The child ends up being known by a single name (out of the many generously bequeathed) at the ceremony. This baby also ends up with a middle name, in total official forms wind up with either two (or three) names listed; essentially those found on the birth certificate and taught the child as belonging to him/her is what eventually sticks.

So why go through the rigmarole of giving all those names? The joy of an addition to the family, the fortune the child is believed to have brought into that home, the future envisaged for that individual are just some of the answers that spring to mind. If you are familiar with names (Yoruba or otherwise), you’ll discover that names always have stories attached to them. I’ll make an educated guess, to say that this is what the people that lavishly hand out names are trying to convey when they confer that small person with the plethora of names.

Everybody knows that a pen name, nick name and the like always has a good story. How juicy (or otherwise) the tale is depends on your position. Thus, names always have a story attached and the next time you’re introduced, you’ll be amazed at the one attached to the person you just met. Who knows, it might become a blockbuster bestseller novel or memoir that breaks all records!

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  1. so, wat’s ur pet name??? or shd i give u one here?! lol…

  2. OLUWASEYI (aka Sheyee) is a beautiful name.I like my own full names also which are – Yewande Olufunmilayo
    ( Which are interpreted to mean- our mother has come and God has given me joy). However over time the names have transformed under different circumstances and stories into abbreviations like – wendy, yewy, wande, milayo, layo. You could almost get confused when people refer to the same person under so many aliases. Thank God for our names and any positive prophetic declarations attached to them. It is a nice piece. You should disclose that pet name by the way!!. Just wanted to say i remain a loyal as you can see.

  3. Pleaaasse let us know all your names…especially the one your gran Ma gave you. Lovely piece Seyi. I would suggest you get a magazine with a wide coverage so that you get ur write-ups published. Nice one؛

  4. ……..tell us ur nicknames or else……..

    😉

  5. I know the pet name!I won’t tell!lol.@seyi over years I’ve actyally named myself several times but
    Alas my first name from birth has stuck!lol.lovely piece!

  6. Nice one. It says the obvious especially as it relates to the Yoruba culture and by extension the African culture. Stories are in abundance in Africa and these are manifested in a plethora of ways, one of which is naming. Jesus was named Jesus because of the story that he will save his people. He was also call ‘Emmanuel’ in relation to another story.

    The Yoruba culture also says ‘ile lanwo, ki a ti so omo loruko’. This translates that one will have to consider his environment \ home meaning stories happening to and around him at that point in time. You do not just give a name but for the deeper meaning usually. Though, few exceptions abound. All these jolly good fellows and the parents especially harbor one story or the other that are well told by these names. This is the culture around here.

    This is a nice stuff as usual.

  7. Names, names and names what’s in a name? I’ve heard that question severally.

    The most interesting part of this write up is the aspect on nicknames. Like regular names given on the 8th day of birth, nicknames though not given at birth seem to sometimes stick like original names given at birth in fact I know of a couple of people that their nick names have stuck on to them stronger and longer than their birth names and I stand to be corrected. There are others who I know even from high school that I know only by their nicknames, their real names doesn’t register in my head anymore. Some of these nicknames tell stories; some good, some bad & others are a corruption of original names but for the nicknames despised by their owners, I discovered back in high school that such names stuck on because the owners made a lot of fuss about them, some raged, some got physical and people just continued taunting them with those names just to annoy them and as such those names lasted till…………………………….

    I was given a nickname that I despised too but I was lucky to have ignored it at the initial stages the name was being thrown at me and over time that nick name died off slowly but steadily like a burning candle in fact that singular experience strengthened my belief in the benefits of patience which I’ve tried to uphold till date.

    Now let’s look and a couple of nicknames.
    Dateline: 1984 – 1990, Federal Government College Ijanikin, Lagos.
    • Waksy
    • Baldy
    • Temite
    • Eba
    • Stagies
    • Man O Beans
    • Eguabs
    • Power Steering
    • Carnation
    • Smallpi
    • Daffy
    • Abani J
    • Dano
    • Eleran (Butcher)
    • Gizmo
    • Steric
    • Mentallo
    • Cave man / Cavey
    • Iron Bender
    • Ijaks
    • Dogo
    • Macho
    • Miss legs
    • Gorilla
    • Ewa Ninja
    • Gbopon
    • Defon
    • Oleghe Scrounger
    • Commander
    • Oduko
    • Odunla
    • Shabba Dee
    • Ori Ejo (snake head)
    • Flasher
    Just a few for memories and some of these names still hang on till date

    • @ Anu: Don’t have any [pet names. As for the one Mama gave…my lips are sealed! If you let on, remember I know where you live!!!
      @Yewande: Yes o! We all have instances of name variants and like you said thank God we know who we are else…
      @Tmone: Seriously? You tried to name yourself over the years? You do have some variations na..,given to you by others. Just think about it and you’ll be amazed.
      @Ehijele: You try well, well! Off the cuff you recalled all these?! You’re correct about ignoring nicknames you don’t like and them eventually not sticking. Yeah, peers have the nose to smell weakness, blood etc and go in for the kill when you protest too louldly. ‘Accepting’ the label ensures disappointment (not all the time though!) and them moving on to the next thing that could annoy/frustrate/exasperate you.
      @Everyone: Thanks for the participation…I love it! :-*

  8. Does this apply to the oyínbos? ‘cos I often wonder what’s the theory behinde their numenclature or else why on earth will smbdy name a child: Bent, Crouch, Carpenter, Bridge, Stone, Stunt, Fish, Sand, ..

  9. Hey there, thanks for the blog post! I have been following your weblog for a short time now and i am definitely having fun with it. I actually had a couple of questions concerning your blog though. Do you consider it will be possible for me to contact you further to debate it? Possibly setup a chat on e-mail or an instant messanging program? In any other case, many thanks anyhow and I will continue to read and comment.

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