It struck me yesterday that ‘funny names’ might be a good subject for a blog post, as living in East Africa you come across so many names that make you smile. Since then I’ve been quizzing friends and they’ve had some good ones to add:
Tanzania was a great source of interesting names. We knew a ‘Needpeace’, a ‘Godbless’ and a ‘Goodluck’. ‘Samwell’ (as opposed to Samuel) was also a popular one, we know a ‘Cosmas’ (as opposed to Cosmos, or Cosmo). One friend swore that she knew a ‘Christmas’ and a ‘Matches’ in Uganda. Their gardener was rather bewilderingly called ‘Mzungu’ (meaning foreigner, or more specifically white man). There were some good Arabic names at the coast like Habibu, Ahaadi, Mohammedi etc. We knew at least three ‘Saidi’s in Dar es Salaam (meaning ‘help’ in Swahili). Swahili numbers are commonly be used as names ie. Moja, Mbili, Tatu, Nne, Tano etc. making life in a large family simpler I suppose? When children are born, parents sometimes cleverly name the child after the parent’s employer, in the hopes of warming the cockles of the employer’s heart and thus ensuring sponsorship of that child through school etc. It’s a tactical move.
Last night I made a real faux pas with our kind driver; ‘Hello Wambui!’ I said, introducing myself brightly – ‘It’s Wambua’ he corrected me sternly. I then tumbled to it that Wambui is the female version of his name, so no wonder he was a bit cross.
Now there have been quite some column inches given over in the UK press as to how the poor children of celebrity’s now will feel about their silly names. ‘Apple’, ‘Bluebell Madonna’, ‘Shiloh’ (forgive any spelling errors). Apparently ‘Peaches’ Geldof, who is now becoming a bit of a celebrity columnist herself, has said that she absolutely detests her name and wishes she had never been cursed with it.
Second and third generation white Kenyans today have made it the fashion to name your child after a place in Kenya. River names: ‘Tana’ and ‘Tiva’ are popular girls names. ‘Karisa’ is a place at the coast and apparently doubles up as a girl’s name too, as does ‘Sala’, taken from the name of a Kenya Wildlife Service gate into Tsavo national park. ‘Lorian’ is the name of a swamp, ‘Batian’ a mountain peak (and also used as boys names). Then there are the less place specific names such as; Acacia, Savannah, and Cheza (Swahili word for ‘play’).
These names are not a patch on the nick names that crop up, generally amongst the 40, 50 and 60 year old white Kenyan set: Bimb, Bimbi, Beanie, Dudu, Dodo, Fuzz, Mouse, Pips, Saba and Thump are all real people would you believe!
We went to the Muthaiga Club Centenary Polo Ball last night, a classy affair and just imagine my mirth when I ran my eye down the seating lists, to see that both ‘Flip’ and ‘Flop’ were in the same party, one of them is usually known as ‘Flipflop’ though I’m not sure which. It made my evening!