Do you want your name to be mud?

2011-03-19 11:14

Among a plethora of well-known and vastly quoted idioms, ­expressions and ­opinions on names, is Dale ­Carnegie’s “a man’s name is to him the sweetest sound in any language” from his classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Born Dale Breckenridge ­Carnagey on November 24 1888, one of the American ­public speaker’s most successful ­marketing moves was to change the spelling of his last name from Carnagey to Carnegie.

This happened at a time when Andrew Carnegie (a Scottish-American philanthropist not ­related to him) was a widely ­revered and recognised name.

By 1916, Dale was able to rent the famous Carnegie Hall itself for a lecture to a packed house.

This background information gleaned from Wikipedia shows just how important a name can be and what effect it can have.

It is not coincidental that there is an English idiom that goes “give a dog a bad name and hang him” with the ­Sotho version being “bitso lebe ke ­seromo”, which loosely translates to “if you give a child a bad name, you are cursing them”.

While many parents think ­intently before naming children, some names are not satisfactory.

For instance people’s names from some of our neighbouring states north of the Limpopo River where you find the likes of Looksmart, Lovemore, Greatmore, Godknows, Seeagain, Fackson, Wedson and Robson ­in abundance.

But even in my area, I had a teacher called Girlagain and still have an uncle named Hilarious.

In most cases on the continent, names reflect the state of mind at the time or the situation the family was or even the area or era in which one was born.

A number of South Africans born in the late 50s and early 60s are named after political icons such as Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyatta and Julius ­Nyerere.

In Ghana, the Akan tribe names will tell you whether the child is a boy or girl and on which day of the week they were born, examples being Kofi, which is a boy born on a Friday, and Kwame for Saturday, or Abena for a girl born on a Tuesday and Akua for Wednesday.

Some name their child after the day or month the infant was born, like Zimbabwean soccer coach Sunday Marimo Chiwedza and South African April Phumo.

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