Recently, it was reported that Australian financial regulators got suspicious of some international money transfer company WorldRemit’s customers with names like Goodnews and Kissmore suspecting they were fake names used for fraudulent transfers. CEO however debunked the suspicions at Money2020 Europe in Copenhagen saying the names were genuine and from Zimbabwe which has a lot of unusual names. In fact, WorldRemit’s Zimbabwean country manager is called Pardon.
You just cannot top Zimbabwean names. They come in 3D: with dimensions and dimensions of meaning. A mother who loves church will call her child Sunday without a second thought while an ambitious father will quickly call his son, Professor. This is why you may find a Professor at a fruit stall at some market. A sugar-lover is also not scared to call his son Sugar and the list goes on and on. In 2004, Kirsty Coventry , a Zimbabwean swimmer won three medals at the Olympics, a feat never before achieved and unmatched since then. A hilarious email did the rounds in Zimbabwe listing names of new-borns given after Kirsty’s unimaginable feats. These included Backstroke Karimanzira, Goldengirl Mazorodze and Threemedals Sibanda. Why not celebrate an important event by giving your child a unique and “special” name? No reason not to. These included Backstroke Karimanzira, Goldengirl Mazorodze and Threemedals Sibanda.
A similar message circulated in the 2008 Zimbabwean election period where the country went for a re-run for the first time. To express excitement over this enthralling political phenomenon, Zimbabweans gave their children names. You might meet a Rerun Mombeshora, Rigging Hamadziripi or even Canditate Pote. These are jokes but no one can put it past Zimbabweans. No one will stop and pause if someone says her name is Runoff Moyo. If anything, people will compliment her for a special name. After all, Lovemore Madhuku and Saviour Kasukuwere are known political figures in Zimbabwe and no one’s heart skips a beat when they are mentioned. Ordinary names really!
Doctor Valentin Hristov of the University of Zimbabwe Mathematics department collected peculiar names of graduands and came up with a remarkable list. People like Addmore, Passmore, Peace-maker, Typewriter and Trouble have been through the University of Zimbabwe. One was called Headache and one wonders just what sort of pain his parents might have been in to eternalise it in that manner. They somehow felt they wanted to remember their headache every time they called their child. People like Addmore, Passmore, Peace-maker, Typewriter and Trouble have been through the University of Zimbabwe.
It is not just a Zimbabwean phenomenon as a Zambian footballer, Laughter Chilembe is known and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan is no unknown. The Apricity confirms this even happens in other countries such as South Africa. Below are some of the funny or sad names.
However, lest the world thinks it is an African issue, be reminded that early American Puritans had such golden names as Fight-the-Good-Fight-of-Faith, Kill-sin and Safely-On-High. There was always a risk that when a pastor was preaching, whatever biblical quote he referred to was someone’s name and he was inadvertently calling the person. Have you not heard of Nicholas Barbon’s previous name? He was If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned. The name is a mouthful and he must have come last in his first grade class. Writing his name was like writing a website link and a first grader would suffer to achieve a perfect result. Nicholas Barbon was an English economist, physician and financial speculator and was considered one of the first proponents of the free market. He also helped to pioneer life insurance. Names with meaning are therefore not an African thing, they have a long history.
It is easily a laughing matter but is it slightly possible that this is a sign of greater underlying issues? What does this say about Africa? First thing that comes to mind is the drastic change to the educational systems of African countries just after colonialism. Names are simply a reflection of the level of access more and more Africans had to education in post-colonial society. People who never thought they would see the door of a classroom started to know some English words and what better way to show it than be the only family in the village which gave a child an English name? Big words were particularly appealing in celebration of the gift of literacy. Why not also celebrate independence by calling your son Freeman since he was born free?
Another issue might be the legacy of colonialism itself. Normally vernacular names have strong underlying meanings but when parents want to feel sophisticated and important, they give these names with meaning in English. However, when someone else in the community has taken all the good names like Kissmore and Givemore, why not call your child Pinkrose just because you can? Another reason could be therefore be the indoctrinated subtle hate towards African culture. People are now giving their children all manner of ridiculous names that tell English stories of an African community. It could also be a bid at straddling the line between being modern and being African. Maybe this means no matter how modern Africa becomes, it has certain traits it will not suddenly drop in pursuit of Western standards. The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. You can as well name your child No-change in agreement with this strong point.