My name is by Idolor Olukayode

Do you have an English name?

No. Why?

Nothing. How do you spell it? Your name, that is.

 Of course, I have an English name. But what’s wrong with what I’m presently called?

I cannot recount how many times strangers have stumbled while attempting to properly pronounce my name; most ask for the spelling in order to assist them. Invariably, not many readily recall it when we meet again. And it often happens to those who know me by name only. So of course, statements like: ‘I’m sorry I don’t remember your name’. ‘Forgive me but what is your name again?’ are all part of trying to make a name for myself. Literally.

It was quite frustrating growing up with this tag hanging over me. Teachers, grown – ups and peers alike would stutter and stammer with the audile ‘Eh?! What did you say your name is?!’ interjections after initial introductions.  It was in fact a primary school teacher who asked if I had an English name.

Most times, I felt really embarrassed; other times, very less often, I took it in my stride when I reminded myself that I didn’t have the most difficult name in the world.

There was a time I actually contemplated going by my English name but killed the idea before it took root. I liked my name. The way it rolled off the tongue, the emphasis on the second syllable. It was rare. Traditional. Unique. And somewhat unpronounceable for some. Forgettable for others. Mangled by many.

Can I call you ‘Id?’No, you may not. This was the beginning of the era of shorter versions of names by using the first two letters. Itohan became It. Ijeoma became Ij. Izegbuwa became Iz. Some genius thought I’d like to be called ‘Id’. How wrong he was! I couldn’t stand the contraction and didn’t like the fact that ‘Id’ could mean ‘Identification.’ Call me finicky but I was named this way for a reason; please indulge me and call the unabridged version of it. They say it is not what you are called but what you answer to, and believe me, I was not going to answer to ‘Id.’

I have had nephews call me ‘Aunty Ijollof’ and nieces replace the initial vowel with ‘a’. Perhaps the best versions of my name are those which two close friends and a former boss all use: they call me ‘Idols’, ‘Didi’ and ‘my idol’.

By the time, I began my first job, I came to the conclusion that there were two schools of thought as regarding the proper pronunciation of my name: the ones who made constant, conscious, obvious effort to get it right and the ones who couldn’t be bothered unpronounceable, strange, not – my – tribe – kinda name. Those who heard it once and got it instantly were completely in a class of their own.

That’s when I started spelling out my name after saying it but not all the time. If I didn’t want a particular person to remember it or perceived the person belonged to the second school, I didn’t bother.

Did you say your name is ‘I don’t know?’ I answered this question several times over the telephone. The world of work brought more drama to my name. It was amazing. How could my name sound like ‘I don’t know’, for goodness sake?! After that, I’d think twice before placing a call and reason if a mail wasn’t going to be an easier form of contact where I’d sign off with my name; on paper, it definitely wouldn’t bear a resemblance to ‘I don’t know’ and I won’t be there when it is being muddled.

Work also gave me, perhaps, the nicest compliment paid about my name. You have such a picturesque name, said a seminar participant as I handed out my call cards as one of the initiators of the event. Then the speaker proceeded to pronounce it perfectly. It was like taking a tall glass of an ice cold drink on a blazing hot afternoon. Refreshing.

These days, after half a lifetime of bearing, saying and spelling this moniker, I have noticed that there’s less stumbling over it. I think people have encountered more impenetrable names and mine doesn’t present much of a hurdle anymore, so they just add it to their repertoire of unusual identities.

My name is Idolor, pronounced /e-DOOR-lor/.  If you can twist your tongue around Schwarzennegar, Djokovic,DjimonHounsou, N’yongo, Avril Lavigne,Gyllenhaal and other head scratchers, then surely mine can’t be overly difficult.

Idolor loves words, reading and writing them and when doing neither she’s juggler, referee and an extension of her beau’s ego. More of her musing can be discovered right here!




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  1. Nice piece. I think I understand a little how you feel. My name is common and has an even more popular variation to it,so that 9 times out of 10 it is written in its variant form. This is very upsetting and I take it personal especially when I am right in front of the person and it still gets misspelled. Totally unacceptable! My name is Funmilola not Funmilayo!

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