What’s in a name? Everything! Just keep it modern, like ‘genetic-codes-breaker’

Tuesday October 10 2017

If Ugandan children are to compete with others

If Ugandan children are to compete with others in the developed and faster developing nations, parents may need to reconsider the wording of these inspirational names. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG 

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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Many of us in Uganda have been of the view that it is some Nigerians and Zimbabweans only who have names cobbled from inspirational clauses like “Good Luck” or “Sweet Success.”

But it is dawning on us that Ugandans too have been giving such names to their children for decades, but in their own languages.

Somehow they are now coming out, owing to the prevailing circumstances. For example, Uganda’s former vice president is called “They-Were-Laughing-At-Me.” It reflects his humble beginnings followed by success which puts sceptics to shame.

Now in parliament we have an honourable member called “Dog-is-Never-Milked.” He came to prominence recently during the scuffles between security personnel and legislators opposed to the lifting of the presidential age limit.

Honourable “Dog-is-Never-Milked” told the press that a security man tried to squeeze his private parts but he also grabbed him and squeezed harder and the harassment ended there. Indeed a dog is never milked.

Consequently, the less macho names/titles like “Father-of-Twins” are losing weight. And thus when the Kampala city mayor, “Father-of-Twins” Lukwago was being arrested and they grabbed his privates, he cried out like a baby, and his recorded shrieks of pain have been turned into a popular ringtone. He subsequently ran to the Uganda Human Rights Commission to report the security guys.

This matter of lifting presidential age limit also brought to the fore a man called “Jesus’ Metal.” This one had been a little known preacher and an unremarkable journalist. Then he accosted an MP who supports the lifting of the age limit and grabbed his neck. Everybody got to know “Pastor Jesus’ Metal.”

But when you look back, the reason Uganda occupies a special place in the Catholic Church’s history is because of the 22 martyrs who were killed 130 years ago for rebelling against the Kabaka. These now canonised rebels have names like Saint Athanasius “On-Spy-Mission,” Saint Noah “Rebellious,” Saint Jacob “Ask-Others” (don’t ask me) and Saint “Let-Us-Attack.”

One vocal woman opposition MP claims that her father was Mr “Let-The Fire-Begin” while her grandpa was “They-Roared” (the guns). Now with reflection, I recall such names of village toughies like Mr “Termite-Doesn’t-Fear Witchdoctor’s-Shrine” and Mr “Gun-Smells-of-Gunpowder.”

But truth be told, these tough names don’t always work. Personally, my clan initiation name was “What-Has-He-Eaten,” after a brave great grandpa who was the king’s fierce warrior and died on the battlefield. He was so named because whenever he went into action, other soldiers would wonder what he had eaten to turn him into such a ferocious fighter. But see what I turned out to be! The coward of the clan who cannot go near any dispute which requires fists or guns!

Thank God, the “What-Has-He-Eaten” name has never featured on my identity documents or academic certificates.

But if Ugandan children are to compete with others in the developed and faster developing nations, parents may need to reconsider the wording of these inspirational names.

They should consider names like “Rapid-Data-Processor,” “Genetic-Codes-Breaker” or “Tireless-Space-Traveller.” Things like “Father-of-Twins” and “What-Has-He-Eaten” are proving to be rather ineffective, if not out of date.

Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala. E-mail: [email protected]