A name can be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes you see people taking on the characteristics of their name (or ironically the opposite). A friend from undergrad has a Yoruba name that means “do not spoil.” We used to joke around with him that he actually was spoiled.
Lately, Nigerian parents are getting very creative with the names. Yoruba parents are known for giving names that are incomplete phrases or complete sentences: "Hisbanner" "Oretosemipoju" or "Esupofo." Igbo parents are known for those adjective and fruit of the spirit names, like "patience," "happiness," "peace" etc.
Some names make you wonder what the parents were going through or thinking for them to name their child that name. Like "Nabal," why would parents name their child “fool?” Beats me.
My first name is Christina. Christina means "anointed, follower of Christ."
I have several names from different family members and groups.
Before I was born, my mother wanted to name me Elizabeth. Then when I was born my father gave a list of several names, that list became my names except for Tina. Tina was his chosen English name for me. There is a joke that it’s because he liked Tina Turner. *shrug* My mom was not feeling Tina for me, so they decided on Christina.
My mom actually wanted my name to be Christianah, the Nigerian way of saying Christina. She took preliminary steps to formally change it on my certificate, but she didn’t think the fee, and the court appearance was necessary. “It all means the same thing,” she would say.
Of the several names, Omowunmi was the second name so that became my “middle name,” and that’s all they could fit on the birth certificate. Omowunmi means “I want a child.” That name makes sense since I’m my parents’ first born child. However, no one calls me that, not even my parents. It’s interesting because most of the elders in my family, and family friends, parents age and above do not call me Christina either, nor my parents once again.
When I got to Edison, my grammar school, my mom wanted them to call me Yetunde, another name of the seven I have. Yetunde (or Iyabo) is a name given to the first female child born after the mother of one of the parents has died. My paternal grandmother passed before I was born and I was the first female issue born from her immediate offspring. However, my school also said they had to use my first name, or she would have to pay a fee, fill out some forms and go to court. So once again, she just left it as is. So at school, I was Christina. And over the years, I’ve been given nicknames stemming from different pronunciations of my last name or a shortened or remixed version of Christina.
After a while, growing up around friends with Yoruba first names, at summer camps and such, I also wanted to be called by a Yoruba name. My family friends would call me Yetunde in private and correct themselves to call me Christina around others, but I really wanted them to call me Yetunde in public too. Gradually, they decreased their usage Yetunde and Christina was the name that stuck.
At home, I’m (Oluwa) Funmilayo; The LORD gave me joy. In second grade, my mother sent me to school with pencils inscribed with “Funmilayo A----;” that’s what she calls me. I’ve heard it said in several different ways, and I know what it means when it is said in each way respectively. Example, Funmilayo with an emphasis on the “O” and an exclamation probably meant I was about to get it. She said one of the reasons she picked that name was because it’s also one of her names. However, after surveying the names in my family, we've noticed that there are a couple repeat names.
Try to imagine the slight confusion my peers had and people trying to pronounce Funmilayo. Fun-me-lay-oh? No, foo-me-lie-yoh. Who is that? Me. *insert more explanation of a double-cultured student here* as if the Ankara for Halloween in Kindergarten was not enough :-)
I relate to the names Christina and Funmilayo the most, probably, because of the meaning. I’ve adopted the characteristics of both names. Regarding Funmilayo, not only has the LORD given me joy but I feel like I give joy to others, and it brings me joy to give joy. So I like when people call me that and I would hope they mean it when they say that.
I wonder what the LORD calls me though. In modern day, I’ve met many people who have the Abram - Abraham, Jacob - Israel or Simon - Peter story. Namely, I’ve come to know Christians that have a Yoruba surname giving honor to a pagan God as the prefix like Ogun: God of Iron and have changed their surname to their father’s first name or the pagan prefix to Olu, Oluwa (LORD God) or something completely unique.
Lately, I feel like I am becoming Imowunmi. “Imo” means wisdom in Yoruba. I want wisdom, hence the blog name change.
I wonder what He calls me, or what He knows me by. Christina? Imowunmi? Friend? Daughter? Servant? Gatekeeper? All of the above? I hope so.
Do you have a name story, (named after someone etc. alliteration, other) share it with me.