A popular quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name ? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” is often used by those who attach little or no importance to names, in attempting to understand the emphasis that so many places on them.
In the Western climes(Europe) Socio-cultural factors no longer influence the dynamics of name-giving, the significance of individual names is lost in some societiess there. Many don’t recognize the power inherent in names that bestow value and meaning.
It is a thing in Africa among the religious populace to give their children names derived from the lineage of the creators of their respective religion, example; African Muslims name their children Ali, Ibrahim, Suleiman, etc, while African Christians name their children Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc
In this age of IT and social media, African teenagers and young adults like to disregard their aboriginal names to prevent teasing from peers who simply don’t understand the significance of these names.
Some people renounce “Unwana” and request that everyone calls them “Sasha”, some abandon “Emeka” and request “Josh”. In doing so, Africans obscure their roots and heritage for the nicety and approval of a western world that does not understand the roots from which such a name originated.
By submitting to the pressure of westernization for the sake of fleeting acceptance, they lose respect and honor for the very past that created them.
The question remains, what’s in a name? what’s so special? the fact is, it would be untrue to assert that a person is characterized exclusively by his or her name, a name may not define a person but it gives profundity.
Names are important to humans, a surname roots us in history and family tradition, while first names establish a more particular identity and personality.
Turning to the Christian scriptures, God’s ancient people knew that a good name is to be esteemed more than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).
The Bible is full of names, and God places a strong emphasis on them, God also thought it wise and important to re-name some people: Abraham’s name (an extension of his old name Abram) means ‘father of many. God made a promise to Abram, a childless 99-year-old man, that he would become “father of many nations”.
In Ihe prophecy of Hosea, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, and name her children ‘Lo-Ruhamah’ and ‘Lo-Ammi’. Many other classic names from the Old Testament have God rooted in them – El’ (Hebrew for ‘God’): Daniel, Nathaniel, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc. In the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus had to change his name to Paul before he started his missionary work.
As a sign of spiritual heritage, many Christian parents worldwide give their children biblical names, Some Christians today take naming very seriously, and some adults legally changed their name’s as a symbol of a particular moment of transformation.
In a pure, proper African culture many factors are considered in the naming process and a supposedly simple name can hold someone’s entire bio. An African name is much more than an identity tag, it is a symbol.
African names carry more weight, a stranger can deduce the socio-cultural aspects of the bearer of an African name: ethnicity, gender, date of birth, family’s occupation, the social and political class, the religion and deities, hopes and dreams of parents, etc, by mentioning a proper African name all the above aspects can be known, African names can also express the values, ethics, and beliefs of the culture of the bearer.
The name your parents gave you is an heirloom of their lives, their personal histories, their heritage, and their dreams for you. You carry this gift of naming your entire life, and it eventually marks your grave when you are gone. Countless, faceless, nameless generations behind us, and those yet to come in the distant future, resonate in the names we are given and those we give. Your name has importance to you and your family, your lineage, your community, your heritage, your ancestors, identifying you and yours, especially in time and space.