There was a certain woman who so wanted a child. When the child finally came, she named him, ‘Eureka!’, complete with the exclamation mark.
Alright, I made that up in the shower this morning while thinking of Archimedes principle, but like me, many of us have names with profound stories behind them. An incident that happened at your birth, a point to be proved, or your taking after a deceased person in looks, could get you saddled with a thing as permanent as a name. Here’s the tale behind mine.
My mother came from a household of many female children and naturally, she didn’t want a replica of that situation when starting her own home. The first tot came to her and it was female. Well, she was not perturbed since it is general belief where I grew up that when a girl-child comes first, it spelt good fortune for the family.
Two and half years later, on a Thursday night in April, the throes of labor overtook her and I slinked out. She said I came with no hassles as the first. Just qui-et-ly. And behold, another girl. She needed a name deep enough to console her. And voila! That is how my name came about.
‘Ucheoma’ is an igbo name that means, ‘Good thoughts’. I can almost read her mind as she lay on that hospital bed, exhausted: Though this is not what I wanted, though I desired a male child, Providence still bears good thoughts towards to me.
What a consolation, mother! So here I am, bearing my mother’s hopeful proclamation decades after. Anyway, her faith did prevail. The next was male.
Some ‘I-wanted-a-boy-but-I-got-a-girl’ kind of names are not as prophetic and fraught with hope as mine, though. I have a friend whose name is Obumneke. The name is a question: ‘Am I the creator?’; a question asked in defiance by a mother to her angry husband after he stormed out of the hospital room on discovering that this was another female child, the fourth in succession. My friend introduces herself with a different name now.
Rewind to twentieth century. Some Igbo names were highly outrageous. Example: my grandmother’s-Nwangaji, meaning, The child of spoon. Sounds like an Indian name. Tales I gathered have it that her birth brought the usage of spoons to her family. What a fortune that was to the peasants! Some of her peers in the village have funnier names like Nwakaigwe, meaning, A child is superior to a bicycle. Perhaps a neighbor or a co-wife was bent on oppressing the mother with her new bicycle, ringing the bells time and again to the pregnant mother’s envy. When the baby comes, the mother wants to meet the challenge. What better way is there to confront the oppressor than with a befitting name? So Nwakaigwe, neighbor! You have an elegant but cold bicycle but look here, I have a child! A child to coo; a child to suckle on me . A child to take care of me in my old age, child who will buy me even this very bicycle you trouble my sleep with! A child, what can be compared to that?
But with all said, I believe that in all the gifts I have received from my mother, my name comes first on the list. It is deep and thoughtful and it serves as a consolation to me whenever I desperately want a thing but it eludes me.
When I am asked what my name means, to make it quick and easy for the quester, I say, Good thinking, good product, (thanks to Toyota). And I don’t get it when some folks ask me, don’t you have an English name. What? My name is sufficient for me!