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Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean English Names Make Diasporans Laughing Stock


Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom are having a torrid time with their English names.

Many were given “loaded” names by their parents. Meaningful names to a Zimbabwean but something else to the English.

For instance, naming a child “Danger” might be inspired by circumstances and experiences.

Clearly, a lot of parents do not consider the wider implications of coming up with such names and do not take into account the interactions the child will have in future.

Names such as “Trouble” have been given to children because of the aforementioned experiences of parents.

The love of things English by those presuming to know the language better than others, especially during the colonial era, led to many “weird” names.

In the 1980s, I was enrolled at Swaziland University and I had an experience which I laughed about.

I arrived at the airport and presented my passport. The immigration officer on the other side looked at me with a grin.

He called another officer and within five minutes, there were 10 officers. I was so scared I thought I had done something wrong.

They asked me to pronounce my names, which I did slowly.

The moment I finished, the whole troupe behind the counter burst into laughter. I was shocked and surprised.

They wished me a good stay and let me in.

When I got to school, the students jumped up and down roaring with laughter. I remember one particular tall guy called Gabriel Masuku laughing uncontrollably.

I did not understand anything until one day a librarian called me up for making noise.

She asked my name and I said slowly Masimba Mavaza. The woman was enraged and took me straight to the Dean of Student Affairs.

It was then I was told the meaning of my names.

Masimba in SiSwati means human excreta mavaza means madness. You can understand why she was enraged.

My younger brother had a torrid time with his name, “Innocent” at his first job in England.

The supervisor would say to him: “You do not have to move around declaring your innocence. This is not a court of law.”

Some idiots started calling him “Guilty”. Most Zimbabweans with names “thrown” at them have become the butt of jokes.

When people make fun of you, they are essentially attacking your identity.

A colleague had a very nasty experience with the police. His name is “Nevermind”. Imagine the police stopping him for speeding and when asked for his name he answers: “Nevermind”.

Some names invite serious problems.

A brief period of confusion about one’s name is not a problem but it is when people become rude and offensive on hearing your name, that matters.

Nevertheless, Zimbabweans love their names. At least there are not millions of other people with your name.

I have realised that when you have an unusual name, people remember you. You stand out and are less likely to fade into the background. You catch attention in a way no one else can.

There is nothing more satisfying in life than finding a person who not only pronounces your name correctly, but also knows exactly where it came from.

The danger of our unique Zimbabwean English names is that if a rumour is spread about you, it’s about you.

It’s not about a girl named Mary that someone will forget tomorrow. You will be the only person with that name in a 500km radius and you will surely be known for your actions.

A lady named Precious caused a stir at her work place in the UK. She was well packed in all aspects and the name Precious being unusual gave a meaning to her loaded self. She became a precious item.

A good sister of mine called Nomatter also had a hard time with the English who joked about her name. Another Zimbabwean called Doesmatter forced heads to turn each time his name was called.

It would be amiss if I didn’t mention my friend Never. The meanings of our names creates a comedy platform in the UK.

Names like Lovemore, Beauty and Memory, are fascinating in the diaspora. Such names can be a nightmare for the kids if they travel abroad.

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