The rate at which people change their names these days is baffling. I was browsing through the newspapers the other day and saw three pages of print dedicated to name changes.
Now, this happens virtually every week in one daily or another. People are freaking out over their given names and renaming themselves. I was amused but not so much afterwards when I began to research into why people change their names.
First off, what’s in a name? Ask Shakespeare and he’ll write an entire play on it- the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet.
In Nigeria, the ceremony that surrounds naming a child is enough indication as to the importance of names to a human being. Names are not just culturally relevant but psychologically, so. A nameless individual is no individual, though I’m aware some cultures use descriptions to name a person, like the red Indians and the Piraha people of the Amazon; even a nameless corpse is called John Doe or Jane Doe in America. I’m not sure what our law enforcement agencies here call a nameless corpse.
Names tell a whole lot more than we see on the surface and when a name becomes ugly, I’m reminded of someone who resented his name so much he actually begged God to change his name, Jabez in the Bible, remember the guy? He was said to be a real pain to virtually everyone who encountered him that he felt he had to have a name change for his life to be more meaningful and for his destiny to change. So it’s safe to say, our names can determine our destiny.
Names have cultural implications and these are deeply rooted in our belief systems. If your name is Sangotedo, for instance, it means your ancestors were Sango worshippers or sympathisers at best and chances are that whatever your ancestors had in agreement with Sango will hold sway over your life and I’m not even being spiritual here, just toeing a logic.
So, I understand one of the many reasons some people with names that celebrate a deity like Ogun (god of iron and war) Sango (god of thunder) Esu (the god of mischief) Oya (riverine deity) decide to change such names into names that reflect their current beliefs. They are simply letting the world know they want nothing to do with the influence of such a deity over their lives. This reason is most common among Christians, the born-again Christians, I mean. The move from Sango this to Oluwa (Lord or God with a capital G) femi (meaning God loves me) or Oluwaranti(meaning God remembers me) or whatever application they want to ascribe to their God or Lord.
Another reason I have found why people change their names is because some were given ‘awkward’ names by their parents and once they grew up to understand what devastating impact these names have on their psyche, they change it. Imagine being called Bomboy, Thegirl, Finegirl, Clever, Euzebus, Maximus, Olympius and names that perhaps rang true wayyyy back in the 16th century but elicit raucous laughter when you have to introduce yourself in public.
I guess it’s legitimate to change these names. A friend of mine changed his name from Sunday to a native name. Asked why he did, he said he felt his parents didn’t try hard enough to give him a special name, he was born on Sunday and Sunday was pinned on him, rather than suffer the different coinages of Sunday-Soni, Suneh, Sunnybobo, Sun ni e reee…he simply adopted a more traditional name that would be devoid of any coinage.
The popular saying, “A good name is better than riches” may not ring as true and loud as it used to, thanks to corruption incorporated.
While some names connote notoriety, others are simply door openers. Try ending your name with Dangote and see how virtually every door opens up for you; then try less reputable names like Anini and folks will be like, ‘Gerroutahia!’
Another reason why people change names is to bury their old life. If something traumatic had happened before or perhaps they are on the run for some heinous crimes, a good many decide to fashi their old names and start with a new identity in a new place.
I know good people who because of something traumatic in their childhood decided to change their names as a means of starting afresh and not being linked with the name that brings them to tears. Have you come across people like that? You are with them and someone comes up and calls them a name you’ve never heard before; I hope such people find closure to whatever it is haunting them.
The biggest victims or should I say perpetrators of name changes are mostly women. A woman starts off in life with her father’s name and just when she has begun to build her life, get an education and career, her name changes. She gets married and joyfully changes her last name.
Funny thing these days, many women not only adopt their husband’s surnames, they take in his first name as well, making it a compound name. Why they do this amazes me. So a Sharon Durotoye who gets married to John Okon suddenly becomes, Sharon John-Okon instead of the easy to arrange, Sharon Okon.
Over the years, Sharon John-Okon builds her life and career but then something goes wrong in marriage, she gets a divorce and drops John-Okon like a bad habit. It’s #bringbackmymaidenname again. This is both annoying and thoroughly confusing to a lot of acquaintances along the line. Is Sharon John-Okon the same Sharon Durotoye? No. She’s Ms. Sharon Durotoye and the sooner the public gets it, the better for us all. She switches all financial documents, passports, etc. to reflect the new status or is it the original status here? Who knows?
Anyway, then comes the tiring process of changing names and records which is why many simply announce their name change.
Let’s push this further, so, a few years down the line, Sharon meets someone who sweeps her off her tired feet and makes her wife number five or six. (See woman wahala, o). Will she be changing names again? Biko Sharon (and Funke and Peju and Funmi and Cordelia), just stick with your original name.