A name is an identity, something for which you’re known, which you stand for.
So what’s my hang-up about names?
People have done battle because of a change of name, society attaches so much importance to a name; whatever it may be. Well, as it rightly should. So if I say my name is bla-bla-bla, it is my name. You have no right to change or refine it! Or misspell or mispronounce it.
Here’s the thing: I meet you or I write to you and I introduce myself as; Chinma. What that is saying is; please refer to me as Chinma. Please don’t go fishing, it’s not a time to ask: will that be Miss, Ms. or Mrs. Chinma? Like those irritating customer care agents. Neither do I expect you to reply me mispronouncing or misspelling my name, if you didn’t hear me clearly please seek clarification. Thank you very much.
It’s particularly irritating if it’s a written correspondence and I have written ‘Chinma’ or ‘Chidinma’ as the case may be, and then you reply or refer to me as ‘Chima or Chindinma’. Haba! I know us Nigerians struggle with names of people from other tribes or complicated names, but: the name is there, written in plain text, all you had to do was copy and paste. That’s not difficult nau, I haven’t asked you to spell my name, and it’s not a test, just get the spelling of my name.
You see us Nigerians are finicky about such things. For some, it’s the title: Chief, Dr., Professor, High Chief (definitely different from a mere ‘chief’), Mrs., etc. we all have our names and titles and are finicky about such things.
I think it stems from the fact that our names have meanings and importance; a letter added here or taken out there gives a name a totally different meaning. See the Chinma- Chima example: Chinma- Good God, Chima- God Knows. See why someone will have a problem with you misspelling or mispronouncing his/her name? Or it could be about Chidinma- God is good, Chimdinma- my God is good. In this case, just one letter differentiates the names and its wrong to think just because you don’t understand it that it’s the same. Seyi is not the same as Sayo. Pay attention to the details for that’s where the devil is lurking.
This is like a person saying; this is who I am and you (respondee) are saying; this is who you are! Like seriously? Who are you to change my name? Who are you to decide not to use my title or whatever?
There’s also this thing about special names for certain people based on relationship. If I’m walking on the street and I hear my name it’s Lagos, I won’t turn. Lol, I already have an idea of what kind of relationship I have with the caller or where we’ve met by what he/ she calls me. So that provides clarity. Caveat: If you are present at that meeting, it’s not a call to start calling me honey bun or sweet cheeks because you heard my dear aunty call me that! No, stay in your own lane with regards to what you call me.
There’s also the thing about given names vs preferred names. Say; mama and papa decide to name their child; baby boy, and the child grows and decides to be known as; wizchild. Lol. The rule I will follow for this is; call the person what he has insisted he should be called i.e. what he has introduced himself as. QED.
This name thingy, it can be as e get o, people take serious offence to being called something they will not prefer or not being called what they prefer. It can be the difference between getting a lucrative contract and not getting it. It can be the difference between getting a job and not getting it. Front office and customer facing staff kind-off understand it, hence their asking us; will that be Miss or Mrs.? But…. I think the rule you should follow is: refer to the person as the person has introduced himself. Imagine sending me a request mail referring to me as Chindinma!!! You have successfully pissed me off already nau, case closed.
To avoid this, I will suggest the use of the ma and sir rule. Trust me you can get away with that any day or time. Just politely refer to the person as ma and sir. Uber gets this one, their drivers are trained to ma and sir their passengers to death.
So, in conclusion; what’s the big deal about a name one might ask? I would say it’s about the fact that it is a differentiating nomenclature. Differentiates A from B, it tells of a story. Mine says my parents looked at me and thought how good God is. Yours might testify that your parents looked at you and felt joy unspeakable or prophesied goodness into your life. Whatever the case may be, it is your name and no one has a right to change it.
For all of you who specialize in misspelling and mispronouncing names; God is watching you. For those who have had or constantly have their names destroyed; I feel your pain, share your story.
Till next week, wishing you love and light!