Guardian some years back, Miss Bucknor explored the strength of names, and how those endowed with instantly recognisable names, especially when said names carry a mark of fame or the fragrance of serious money, find locked doors opening with the ease obtainable from well-oiled hinges.
It wasn’t that Miss Bucknor put it in the way I just did, that is just my perculiar summary.
Anyway, I stole the title. I did so because it addresses very much an issue that bothered me for a long—the fact that I did not pay the right kind of attention to my identity and how the name I bear takes away from who I am.
I was born Igbo, in a village health centre in the very small town of Nkwe, which nestles proudly atop a flat-topped hill in Anike, Awgu LGA, Enugu state, South Eastern Nigeria. My parents professed Christianity and as such saddled me with what they and the priests called “English Name”.
Here, English names have for long been regarded as of utmost importance if you are to be accepted into the fellowship of the brethren—something that is supposed to be the highest rank one can attain, and a mark of possessing the Christian faith. Therefore, to gain acceptance as a follower of Christ, as a baby I was christened with the German name Fredrick. Don’t ask me how a medieval German name became an English or Christian name—ask the church people instead. I am sure my mother did not know what the name meant and my father insisted for years that Alfred was what he asked the Catchiest to christen me with. This however, wasn’t an issue as my family, like many from these parts, cared little for the name after the church ceremony and called me by my native name Chiagozie—a richer, more endearing name than that German one.
I remember forgetting that my name was Fredrick until I began primary school (Kindergarten was a long dream only the very rich dreamt about in those days) and was asked to bring my baptismal card for age verification.
Suddenly I found myself answering to Fredrick in School and my native birth name—mostly its abbreviates, Agozie or Ago—at home. I must confess that as a child, I rather liked my “English” name and smiled at the prospect of being addressed thus whenever a friend visited me at home. I dreamt of dumping the native sounding Agozie entirely and adopting Fredrick, surnamed with a funkier anglicised version of my surname, for both school communal usage.
Thank the gods for getting older and finding emancipation. Now I see the folly of cleaving to a name that does not define me in any way. Yes, I found out in secondary school that Fredrick means peacefully ruler. I agree that I am naturally peaceful, but I do not rule over any kingdom, so go figure.
For a name, I believe one should cleave to that which best identifies his demography. Why should I, an Igbo man, contend with a German name. What has Germany done for my motherland or me. I do agree that in the future, if I meet a Fredrick that seriously impacts my life, I wouldn’t mind naming a son or grandson after him, but for now I can only Answer that question, WHAT’S IS IN A NAME?
EVERYTHING, I say.
That said, let’s bid farewell to Fredrick Chiagozie Nwonwu and welcome from obscurity Mazi Chiagozie Nwonwu. All former documents remain valid, general public note.
This is I getting real!