On names


Recently I watched a very interesting short clip on names. I can’t find it now though but I am sure it’s somewhere on YouTube. The basic argument in that clip is that we have two names or more for administrative purposes. Otherwise we would just be Makagutu of Asembo. Do you think this is true?

The second argument, not made by him but that I have seen elsewhere and I kinda agree with is Christian or Arabic names given to those colonised by these powers is a form of colonialism. And with long lasting effects. Many times I have been asked what’s my English name when it is obvious I am not English. Sometimes the question is what is your Christian name? It looks like we are limited to either an English name or a Christian one which is more often than not a dead character somewhere.

It seems the process of changing one’s name in this country is harder than changing sex in the west where from most I have read, feeling in the depth of your heart is sufficient for a dude to claim female status.

What’s in a name, though?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

22 thoughts on “On names

  1. ladysighs says:

    It is what it is!
    ( Oops! Shouldn’t have written that again! Won’t do it anymore. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ )

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  2. Barry says:

    No doubt there’s some truth to two names being given for identification purposes but probably unnecessary in a digitised age where most people will have some sort of unique digital ID. In the US, I understand everyone has a Social Security ID, and many nations have have some sort of official ID that includes a unique code of some sort. Here, we don’t have any formal ID and it’s still necessary to include an address and/or birthdate as well as your name to ensure you’re correctly identified.

    As for assigned names, I never refer to ‘Christian name’ and ‘surname’, or ‘first name’ and ‘last name’. Instead I refer to ‘given name’ and ‘family name’. In this country, only a third of the population are Christian, and as almost 1 in 3 Kiwis are immigrants, many have originated in countries where the name order is different. In the Christian west, name order is given name (first name/Christian name), family name (last name/surname), but in many cultures, including that of my wife, name order is family name, given name.

    Why on earth would anyone in their right mind ask you what your English name was? You’re not English! Even my own given names are merely Anglicized versions of Irish and Scottish names and my family name is an Anglicized version of a Norman French version of an Old Norse name.

    The wife and I gave our children both Japanese and Anglicised European given names and our grandchildren have a different combinations of Anglicised European, Mฤori, Japanese and Hawaiian given names. Here it’s not unusual for Pฤkehฤ (those of European descent) to be given Mฤori names.

    One thing to consider is that in some languages there are a limited number of names to choose from, and in some countries names must be chosen from an official list of less than a thousand names for each gender, so even in relatively small communities having one name with the addition of ones area of residence would unlikely to be unique.

    In fact a second name didn’t become commonplace in England until the fourteenth century, and didn’t become an inherited family names until much later. So for example my father might have been known as William Smith (William, the blacksmith), but I might have been known as John Williamson (John, the son of William).

    Here you can choose to use whatever name you like and it is legitimate. If you want to change your registered name (the one on your birth certificate and on your passport) it can be done simply by making a statutory declaration and sending it to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages along with a $170 fee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I imagine the CPC having a list of Xi’s and He’s that one can chose from.
      Do you have passports or DLs? We have IDs which were introduced by the British colonizers & have their legacy have lived on. Then one has a pin number which is not the ID. A driving license and then a passport for int’l travel and huduma number which is also a form of identification..It almost feels like the government is confused.

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      • Barry says:

        More people than not have a passport and I guess most people have a drivers licence. They can be used to confirm your identification but are not true IDs as you’re not required to have them. Irth certificates can’t be used as IDs either as anyone can legally obtain a copy of anyone’s birth certificate as they are a public record. It simply provides evidence that someone was born on a specific date at a specific place to specific parents.

        I don’t usually carry any form of identification with me unless you consider a bank debit card a form of identification ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  3. The last several decades, it’s been ”what are your given names”, or ”your first & middle names”, then surname..

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  4. basenjibrian says:

    I understand that “family names” were largely created to enable easier collection of taxes by nascent centralizing states. Most rural people didn’t need or use family names.

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    • makagutu says:

      if you are levying no taxes, one name is more than sufficient

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      • basenjibrian says:

        A medieval French “tax farmer” would disagree with you, Maka. unless taxes are strictly local and can be assessed based on kin or small community relationships. A larger state is different.

        The argument I read (it may have come from “Thinking Like a State”) is that surnames were a mechanism of tying people to the State. Including taxation. I am not qualified to say whether this is correct, but it was interesting.

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  5. basenjibrian says:

    and I am having surgery to make my WordPress name LITERALLY my name and species!

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  6. In the eighteen hundreds, the Jewish immigrants into Europa had to Europeanise their names (for administrative purposes), so they chose either the name of their occupation or the town they were residing in. This kind of naming practice has been used since Roman times (for administrative purposes) when a barbaric applied for Roman citizenship. I guess it will take some time before those administrative residues have evaporated.

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  7. Tish Farrell says:

    You know I’ve been ancestoring. It seems that very early UK records way of tagging people was ‘first name’ plus Saxon/Celtic place descriptor. E.g. Richard of stony place. Or Richard son of Thomas of stony place. Eventually the stony place morphed into a surname for extended family kin groups. Many of the most common surnames more obviously come from family trades – smith, mason, fletcher, baker, wright etc. All of course designed, then as now, to ID individuals for taxes and tithes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      In my case, “Miller” is pretty obvious. ๐Ÿ™‚ I come from a town dominated by Germans and English, and I think there were ten pages + of “Millers” in the local white pages. I miss telephone books. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tish Farrell says:

        I agree. Telephone books were really interesting. I always regretted not translocating some old ones that were in our rented Nairobi house when we returned to the UK.

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        • makagutu says:

          At the time I joined college, mobile phones had not taken hold here but there were prepaid phone booths run by kencell. Now what I recall was students found a way to beat the billing system and you would always find a long q of people waiting to make calls. I think we need a museum of booths and telephone directories.

          Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I think such names make sense. Imagine naming my grandfather after some dead fellow somewhere who doesn’t know in an attempt to civilize or is it christenize him.

      Liked by 1 person

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