Your Name and You

"My name is Sylvester Nyayo Okombo!" That came from a colleague on the first day of class in college...that was back in my green days. The middle name raised a number of pairs of eyebrows, having been the signature name of the longest serving president in my country thus far and meaning "footsteps". In my country, just like in my Continent, Africa, the name is quite an aspect of ones personality.

The different communities have different styles of naming their children. Some, like mine following immediate relatives, others following significant situations around the time of birth. But the birth name and the baptisimal name, for some, do not close the naming chapter as more names are picked as the child grows. These names, mostly nicknames, carry more relevance to the persons character than the former. The school system is notorious in this area as I cannot remember a single teacher without a nickname!

It has been said now and again that our names largely define our inner-selves as well as draping us outwardly, sometimes very wrongly judging and enslaving us! Remember the "Hussein" factor in the campaigns for the first black president of America?

So, how exactly does a person relate to their name? What aspect of ones personality does the name hold? I say a very big part! Back here, there is a cliché that "ngari itari namba ni ya muici"(A car without a registration plate is that for a thief). This is commonly given as an excuse for people to introduce themselves by name...and some are usually as long as the Nile while others as weird as Paul the Octopus, especially when nicknames are given!

Am reminded of a time I was at loggerheads with my cousin and while solving the matter through a mediator (obviously), he kept on referring to me as "huyu jamaa" (This guy) rather than using my name! It felt aloof, almost like referring to a rock! But how else can you feel in this world, where even the creepiest of pets get names! It even gets more personal when intimate relationships are involved. I once referred to my girlfriend as "her" while talking to a relative and had to withdraw the title! The reason? The name is more than identity! There lies all the personality, dignity and respect. No wonder we refer to unbecoming behavior as"kuharibu jina" (Spoiling one's name).

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