What’s in a name?

Names are a fascinating part of culture everywhere. Here, kids are traditionally named according to the circumstances of their birth, usually their mother’s circumstances. As you can imagine given that pregnancy and birth is quite tough at the best of times, there are a lot of ‘Aols” (I’m tired) :D. Some of the names are very specific though. The first twin out is called Opio, the second twin is called Acen (literally ‘later’). If you’re born after twins you’re ‘Akello’. If you come out the ‘wrong’ way (not headfirst), you’re called Angei. If you’re born with 6 fingers you’re ‘Ojara’ (I have a friend Ojara, his mother cut the extra one off soon after he was born). Unfortunately though, the long history of war has left a legacy of names with negative connotations. Many of these names are as common as John or James.

Acan – I’m poor
Anyek – I’m jealous
Atimongo – What can I do?
Ayella – I’m disturbed
Arach – I’m bad/evil (and not in the Michael Jackson sense)
Necolit – Painful killing
Otoo – Death
Komakech – I’m starving

And for me the most chilling,

Ngomkwora – The grave awaits me

Thankfully now there is peace, and some parents have actively chosen to be more positive in naming. There’s now more and more nice names like Amara (Love), Angeo Rwot (I know god), Kica (Mercy). I hope this trend continues!

From left to right ‘Otim’ (I was born abroad), our language helper ‘Aringo’ (I run away) and ‘Aber’ (A good thing)

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7 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Kaye Lindsay says:

    Such an interesting and well written piece Tessa – Good to see that you’re both looking so well. Much love to you both xx Kaye

  2. Alice says:

    Wait… you guys have African names now?!

  3. Ray says:

    Hi. Really enjoy your news. The trend in naming didn’t seem to happen in Mbale. A lot of biblical names, maybe they had the real ones tucked in behind. Not hard to see the reason for Nick’s name – he does stand out in a crowd, and yours must be encouraging Tessa. Love, Ray

  4. Holly says:

    That is really interesting. I hope the words kind of lose meaning as the personalities of the people come through and they aren’t always reminded of jealously or pain. I love your names, they are so apt!

  5. Pingback: Love Letter – Tess and Nick – Jemma Balmer

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