Aninoritse Odeli-Serrano: Hello, my name is …

by Aninoritse Serrano-Odeli

What’s in a name? A lot of people have had this argument over the years: “nothing is in a name; oh a lot is in a name”.  Either way, this argument did not start with me and long after I am dead and gone lots of people will still talk this matter. This reality hit me when I rang a padi of mine called Sly – Suliamon and he tells me about our friend Michael and he goes “ah Maike called me.” How did Michael become Maike you may ask? How did Suliamon become Sly? How did Mujanetu become Jane? All these beautiful names suddenly retuned to sound foreign.

Wikipedia says “a name is a word or a term used for identification.” Your name is you, you wear your name. Or would you have preferred being given a number?  Nah…I think too awkward. Meeting at the market would be one kind. “Ah…Mrs. 4900 ahaha how are you oo? I asked Mama 27% about you yesterday, did she tell you? Ehen, no oo my dearest Mrs. 10000, how is my in law 14.55? Greet him. How is your son 22/7? Hope he’s better? ” Or imagine a football commentary?  Nah too hard to even think about it, bottom line, you need a name to identify yourself. Your name is you!

Coming from an Itsekiri background, when a child is born, as soon as the father appears or the eldest in the family sees the child or hears of the child’s arrival, the child is named. This could vary from minutes to days (back in the olden days), but not very long I assure you. Some children are very unique; they name themselves before they are born, while some others are named according to the circumstances surrounding their birth. Back in day, parents would consult the “Umale” the oracle, of whatever they worshiped, that’s how some children sent a name ahead of time.  The Yoruba people on the other hand, on the 8th day the baby gets his/her name and I assure you, it’s usually well thought out.  A child isn’t just named, there is a naming ceremony and it’s always a grand affair. This is where the child collects the many names which hopefully will bring him blessings and map his way in life.

Nigerian names are usually quite beautiful and I would gladly name my children “native” names. “Native names” according to a young girl I met sometime last year who didn’t share my love for Nigerian names. She didn’t like her native name because it was too razz but was happy to bear the name Eunice which she pronounced as “Uniez” *sighs*. How do we begin to educate people that actually your name is special and beautiful when even you, don’t think it is? The white man’s name too is special and he is proud to wear it so why not wear yours? Oh you think he is better than you so to be like him, you name yourself like him? Or like some of that never got given an English name yet bear it, why? Does this add to your confidence level?

I come from the school of thought that a lot goes into a name. My name is Aninoritse Odeli-Serrano and I love the sound of it. I get quite upset when people tease me by calling me “Anini”. I am not related to Lawrence Anini abeg. While I don’t consider my name a brand, simply because I am not in a business that demands that of me but it is still a selling point. It is one of the first things I use to win anybody over. I use it in a pitch or a sale. For many people, their names are a brand, their major sense of identity, their income, for some it is the main reason why some people still remember their relevance. They made a name and the name sold them well.

Going to the GP’s for an appointment to see a doctor used to be quite a trip for me. They would murder my name all in the name of pronouncing it. I’m usually quite polite, I will correct you gently and you will be forced to pronounce my name well. If you can pronounce Russian, Asian and German names with such perfection like it rolled off your tongue why can’t you pronounce “Ajaninomishaghan, Onyedikachukwu or Lubabatu? E nor hard jaare call am well. I don’t think the oyinbo man will be quite pleased if I didn’t pronounce his name properly, so what gives him the right to murder mine? Yes I understand that at some point, you might have to give him some allowance if your name is Chukwukadibia or Oghenerukewe but still Barabanschikova still gets pronounced well so..Hey why not ours?

Let us for a moment forgive the parents of those with names like Godspower, Goodluck, Miracle, Perpetual, Mighty, Providence, Believe. These are all really good names (sic) but honestly, my opinion, this shouldn’t be someone’s name. Yes I know that when the baby was born he brought goodluck but I think we all get that, we just don’t need to be reminded about it. Yes we also know that by some fluke of nature Chelsea won the Champions League and of course your daughter is now called Chelsea. The Beckham’s conceived their first son whilst in Brooklyn and now the child is called Brooklyn. My uncle was born around the time of World War 2 and he was named Hitler pronounced “Etila”. Need I go any further or you getting the picture I am painting here?

Why is your name Rahanatu and you will tell me is Rihanna? Your name is Akinola and you say it’s Akins/Atkins? This is just my 2cents and my opinion to a name. Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Aninoritse Serrano-Odeli and I am indeed proud of my name and so should you be of yours.



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Comments (7)

  1. Interestin write [email protected] omg u made ♍ƺ laff lyk mad and yes Ȋ̝̊̅'ve alwys hated d divine, peace, and love sort of names, buh wt wld u do if u ve doz names Ȋ̝̊̅ guess nothing and anoniritse frm 1black person2anoda Ȋ̝̊̅'ll call u ritse cos Ȋ̝̊̅ hardly call my bro stephen Ȋ̝̊̅ call him steve mks it easier 4me Ȋ̝̊̅ fink

  2. You've not seen the ones who got stuck with names like 'Divine increase', 'majority', 'faithfulness' and 'super'.

    I've had this argument severally with friends about the importance of our 'native name' like 'Uniez' put it. You are yóur name.

    Welldone jare Aninoritse. Great write up!

  3. This is an interesting read.I can't fathom why people can't be proud of their African names.that's how my sisters husband named their kids bright and peace. I have loved my name better since my late mum told me of instances surrounding my birth; I had wanted to rename myself because I believed too many ladies bear doyin and me being a guy. Thumbs up once again Aninoritse..

  4. I think this author has too much time on his/her hand. Shortening of names doesn't necessarily mean it is being made to sound "foreign", whatever on earth that means. Who doesn't know Tunapa (Babatunde) or Kay (Kayode) is Nigerian? It would interest you to know that the concept of a second name (surname if you may) is very foreign. Before contacts with the foreigners we (assuming you are black African) didn't have surnames. I would have been known as Atutupoyoyo the son of the fish seller or son of mama Adeola…you get the drift?

    Because you are belaboured by an unpronounceable name doesn't mean you should belabour our souls with this write up.

    The only point I agree with you is those intrinsically useless names like Godspower, even then who am I to judge?

  5. Oshey!

    I have never stopped wondering why some people would give their child(ren) names like Testimony, Favour, Precious, Immaculate, …..what have you and what have nots…

    I cannot but thank my parents enough for not giving me any of such foreign names, even under the guise of 'christian' names.

  6. Great & interesting read. I believe the last parts of our dying culture are hidden in our names & language. Where do we go when we lose these 2?

    Given that I have no english name, I shall ensure my children have no english names too. Let the oyinbo man choke on the yoruba name jarey. Its a good way of making sure our culture doesn't go unnoticed.

  7. How touching that this comes on the weekend that my aunt- who was 'razzly' named Jemila now 'self poshly' rechristened Gem- is getting married. Thank you. 🙂 The Girlfriend wants us to name our future children June or April or some romantic word like that. Me, I have 7 names,all of them Yoruba. You can be sure when I have kids,none of them would be August or September.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail