Sunday, June 23, 2024

Are names expected to dictate our personalities?

So many people are overburdened with names they don’t like and names that try to force them to be what they are naturally unlike.

Do you ever think that your parents named you because that’s what they thought you would be like?

Many people have experienced situations where giving their name inadvertently meant having to explain what it means and, to some extent, how it came to be bestowed on them.

Parents, it appears, have the temerity to overburden their off-spring with names, some of whose embarrassing meanings stick for a life time.

In African traditions, the name one is given as a baby has everything to do with our surroundings, family experiences or some salient occurrence before, during or immediately after birth.

That is why a Matlhomola would tell how he was born during a time the family went through a shameful event or that his birth was a shame in itself.
But is Matlhomola destined to live his entire life with shame? Will shame follow him throughout or will he actually be the opposite of what his name denotes?

Quite a handful of names are popular and have meaning. That is why some of us have been told that we really are what our names imply with some being told what the very opposite of their names they turned out to be.

I have on numerous occasions been met with, “Oh, you really are an angel.”
Of course, I am Angela but I am no angel.

I have not had the guts to ask my parents why they aimed so high and put me under so much pressure. Angels ain’t human.

There is something extraterrestrial about them and I bet my parents would not have liked it one bit had I become “a real angel”.

I know a friend who has been told time after time how she does not reflect a fraction of the meaning of her name.
Many of us grow expecting all the Kagisos to be peaceful and live to uphold serenity. When, therefore, someone with the name Kagiso appears destructive or violent, we tend to question why he or she turned out that way when, in fact, the promise of their name at birth fooled us into expecting peace and tranquility.

Do parents really orient their children to become what the names they give them suggest?

A respondent on a website said: “I think babies grow to suit their name but no way can a name be an excuse for bad behaviour of any sort. I have known several people who shared the same names and the differences in their personalities were definitely not due to their names.”

“There was a very handsome boy by the name of Barry and he was a somebody; but I also got to know a Barry who was also handsome but fell a little short of being an angel. I knew a Theresa who was as sweet as can be and another who was a drunk and a thief. One of my dearest friends is a Linda and she is a darling; some years ago I had another friend called Linda and she was mixed up and dishonest, spiteful and a thief as well as other bad things.”
The respondent, of course, refused to divulge his own name.

Shakespeare was far off the mark when he said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

A name is not who someone is; it is merely what they are called.
It is just a handle.

Kebonye Tebogo, a final year Public Relations major at a local tertiary institution, believes that the names people are given are merely a reflection of the parents’ personality not the other way round.

“Our parents name us according to what they think. They do not really know us but impose their beliefs upon us through naming.”

Tebogo added, “If we named ourselves, our names would totally be different from those that we were given.”

And, indeed, all one has to do is to look at how many of us have two names, usually one in vernacular and the other in English. The English name or the vernacular name we later give ourselves is meant to bury the first one or to polish it up a little ÔÇô to, as it were, balance the scales in our favour.

A source, who did not want to be named after I mentioned I was writing about names, says that nicknames we later acquire are more descriptive of our personalities, abilities and demeanour than birth names are. “Names are just given, maybe in the hope that you will turn out to be like the name suggests, but the nicknames we pick up while growing up are really, at most, a description of who we are or how we are or what we mean to others around us.”

He also said that some names just describe our appearances or looks. “Some people are named according to how they are believed to look, like Bontle (meaning beauty) yet beauty still lies in the eye of the beholder.”

He also asserted that “people don’t only emphasize on beauty on the outside. We believe in internal beauty, and some people might just have great looks but a wicked heart.”

So we should not be surprised if a certain Kedidimetse turns out to be as loud as ever or when a Lesego is the unluckiest bloke on the face of the earth.

I will not ask or bother to liken anyone to their name. After all, what’s in a name?


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