What’s Your Name?

Unlike western first names, which usually have a remote and therefore forgotten or obscure meaning, many African cultures name their children according to the day they were born.

In formerly French colonial countries where the Catholic calendar is used, the name of the child may correspond to the patron saint of that day. Hence, I once met a man whose name was Fête Nat because he was born on Bastille Day: on the French calendar, the 14th July is simply noted as ‘Fête nat.’, short for ‘Fête nationale’ (i.e. national day/celebration). Ewe children, however, are named according to the day of the week they were born, their place in the family and of course gender. So a boy born on a Tuesday is called Kobla, a girl born on Thursday Yawa. If another boy is born on the same day of the week, a suffix, -ga or -vi, is added to each boy’s name, i.e. Kodzoga (born-on-Monday senior) and Kodzovi (born-on-Monday junior). If three boys are born in succession, the third one is called Besa, and the third girl will be named Mansa, etc.

Wednesday Friday Addams’s forenames may not be that fictional, after all…

Photo: Peeter Viisimaa


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