Wo din de sen / What is your name?

Do you have one, or many?

If you are of Ghanaian background, you probably have quite a few: day names, given names, family names, Christian names, nicknames, order of birth names, thank-god-you’re-here names, etc. etc. DadaK has quite a few, and they vary depending on who he’s with. He’s K to his wife, which is an abbreviation of his day name. I call him by his Christian name, which is how he introduces himself to white people. Some of his friends call him Opia, which is a nickname that corresponds to his order of birth name, and other friends (the younger ones) call him Uncle.

Confused? Yes, and loving it.

But don’t think Ghanaians have a monopoly on interesting naming practices. I too have many names. When I was growing up in rural NSW my cousin called me Fred and the swimming pool attendant called me Frank. (Did I mention I’m female?). My Dad was called Bill but that wasn’t his real name & some people in the community were convinced there were two of him. I was surrounded by people called things like Bluey (red heads) and Snow (white hair). Not to mention the Smithys, Gazzas & Mazzas …

As a young adult I had an identity crisis and changed my name myself for a while, to Jess Walker (J-walker, get it?) and Ghanaians who met me during that period still insist on calling me Jessie. I kind of like that. Some of the family in Ghana call me Mama J – hence the name of this blog. Maame is Ghanaian for Mum, and MamaJ was already taken as a blog name (grrr).

My Ghanaian day name is Afia & I am fourth born – Annane. I’ve known this for years but it was only quite recently that I made the connection that this is the feminine version of Kofi Annan! What’s also cool is that I probably share this name with thousands of people!

As stated in a previous post, I’ll be using psuedonyms here and I may expain them as I go along. Or not. But just for the record – I think DadaK & ActionMan (our son) are pretty obvious & I’ve just explained MaameJ. I’ve dubbed ActionMan’s stepmother Obapaa, which means good woman. And she is, but it’s also the name of an adinkra symbol which is commonly seen on Ghanaian cloth. (Actually I can’t find it online, but that’s what DadaK tells me. Perhaps he was having me on? I’ll keep you posted.)

I haven’t come up with names for ActionMan’s half-siblings except for his baby sister.  After four sons DadaK and Obapaa had a daughter, and her (real) name is in the ‘thank-god-you’re-here category’. I’m sticking with that trend, and am tossing up between Gifty and Treasure. Stay tuned …

3 thoughts on “Wo din de sen / What is your name?

  1. Hi – great post! My husband is Indian (I’m white), and in his family most people have several names too: multiple nicknames, family relation names (like older brother, little sister, etc), and then their “good name” (actual birth name). When I first visited his family in India a cousin of his sat me down and wrote out a family tree with all of the different names I’d need to know. 🙂

    I write a blog (gorigirl.com) on intercultural relationships as well, although my focus is a bit more towards South Asia. Hope you don’t mind that I’ve added you to my blogroll.

  2. Hey, I don’t mind at all! thank you! I am looking forward to checking out your blog as well (all our wondeful stories) – so much to read, so little time ….

    I love naming practices, they are such as interesting window into cultures & relationships. My son is named for a Ghanaian uncle and an Australian uncle, becasue in Ghanaian culture you name a baby for people in the family. I thought we were going to use his Ghanaian uncle’s name, but after he was born DadaK started calling him by his day name and that’s what stuck. I love it how the names all connect him to family members, and his day name connects him to the whole Ghanaian community, because it is shared by so many people. In anglo culture I think we have lost this sense of connection a bit, in fact it’s often considered a bit daggy to name a child after a relative. Pity.

  3. Pingback: The Ghana Awards « Border Crossings

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