Apart from the fact that I needed to give explanations whenever I mention my name to people, often times, I do need to pronounce it several times before they grasp what I am saying. I used to think that it was all my fault, that maybe I didn't know how to pronounce things well, or I wasn't audible enough etc. And for some reason, I often times am just more comfortable using Afiniki, A ton of times, I just spell it out...
Well, over time though, I have realized that it was more because they probably haven't heard of the name before or they expecting to a different name (more English?), and maybe the “come again or pardon?" were because they were trying to digest what they have heard.
Saying just "Afi" won't save me either and "Niki", worse. “Afi, that's all? Your parent didn’t give you that name, did they? What does it mean?”
And when it's “Niki”, they are like;
“Niki as in Nicki minaj? Why don't you just stick with the name your parents gave you? Tell me your real name”.
Well, people expect you to say your complete name when asked and not just it's part. They can choose to shorten it if they want. At home though (and by close friends), I have been called Afi (or Afi the cat) all my life. When my parents call me “ Afiniki” in full, that's when I know that I did something that well, isn't so good…
Once when I told someone my name is “Afi” and he was like “Afi as in Afiniki”, I warmed up to him quite easily and smiled even wider. I guess him saying he has heard this name before made me a bit more (comfortable?)
Back then, my Chemistry teacher will call me "affinity" because according to him, it was easier to remember. because, electron affinity. There is this guy in my neighborhood that calls me same...
Me: Afi-ni-key (stressing the key)
Him: Affin-try (with a kinda different intonation)
Me: Yeah. But you can call me Afi or N... (I stopped and said Audrey instead before he ends up calling me nitty-gritty instead)
I am always like it is just Afi-Niki, it is that simple but I guess it isn't so for everyone. To be honest, I used to feel like Afiniki is two names clustered in one.
One of my Childhood friend's Grandma used to call me " Tikinisu" and till today, I am still trying to figure out the relationship between the letters in my name and her version of it😂🤣. She was the same language as me, really but quite old. I guess her brain was giving her a different thing
One of the names my parents wanted to give me was Magret (remember the woman that still calls me her namesake? Yeah, that's her name), and I really am so glad that I wasn't given that name, else I will be called "Maggie" all my life. Now, that wouldn't have been a problem if Maggi wasn't a seasoning cube here😂😂, and the kids are gonna make fun of me big time!!!
Teasing people with their names or trying to make another meaning out of it might not be quite relatable to most of you but for me, it was quite the norm while growing up. I mean, living in a country with about 520+ native languages, you should expect to hear some pretty interesting and strange names.
An average Nigerian should be able to speak at least 3 languages,
it is a survival skill.
I had this classmate whose name was Sengohol, well, we figured that it did rhyme with alcohol, and since then, when we wanna talk to her, we say
"Sengohol give me some alcohol".
We definitely were careful not to get caught, else we would have to produce the alcohol we are talking about. I mean, we were still minors... Well, she later gave herself the nickname "Sency" but that didn't save her either, we added sexy to it, and she really was... And whenever we call her "sexy Sency" she gets really mad!!! Especially if it's in front of the boys.
I am sure those kids never figured that when the "B" in my surname is replaced with a "C" it spells "citrus". If they did, I would have been in " soup". Oh well....
We still have “clans” and still use them in this part of the world (or maybe my part of the country, because I can remember telling someone that it is a clan name and she was like “what's a clan name?”. In my own “tribe” (more like the group of people that speak my language), clans have names and there is a general name for every member of the clan (a separate one for men and another for women), we often times use it as a middle name too, which I do!
“Mhya” (now, don't bite your tongues), is the general name for the men in my clan, and well, that’s what I use. (Why? Because it sounds strange), I am definitely not supposed to use it, my Dad talked to me about changing it but I never adhered… until kids started making fun of me using it. I think though, that Mhya is the perfect compliment to my already strange names.
The kids call me “mai'ya” back then, and you know what that means? Witch! (In Hausa)Lol! They called me that because it seemed hard to pronounce the name (actually, it is) and well, it was interesting to them. Even I don't know how to pronounce it, my Dad does, and my Mum, a bit!
I can remember several of my teachers asking me to pronounce the name and I am like “I don't know how to”. Some thought I was rude (and nearly punished me😅), some said it isn't my name and for those saying it isn't my name, I am always like “ yeah, it's a clan name, not mine”.
I have figured that with my classmates then, when you always tell them to “stop it” when they tease you or do things you don't like, they keep on doing it. But when you ignore them and even join in the “fun”, they become disinterested pretty soon, and well, you are safe again!!!
My mum is from a different clan and so has a different clan name (well, even though clans are often times really big, people of the same clan are not supposed to get married) Hers is Nkwariza (for the women) and Msheliza (for men). “Nkwa” simply means girl or lady and “Mshel”, man.
Your clan name is being seen as a form of honor, or… just something that is supposed to make you feel good, really. You might see a mother calling her child with the clan name instead of the sweet names when petting the child or trying to get him to stop crying. I guess it is something one should be proud of...
I have actually learned to adjust to whatever name people are comfortable calling me (as long as it isn’t so offensive or just something I don't like).
Some call me Drey, Some put the effort of calling me Afiniki, a lot, Afi the cat (few, Afi kitty) others, Afi, a few, Niki, a handful, Bitsy another Afi-nikes, some, Afini and some, Audrey. In fact, this family friend of mine fondly calls me “Affinity”, whatever that is supposed to mean (was he trying to “Englishify” my name?)... Oh, this Uncle of mine, he calls me “Fifi” (just imagine someone calling it with a really high energy)
A few people that figured out that Afiniki could mean the same thing as Eunice end up calling me that, but I really do detest being called that.
I have realized that even though Eunice and Afiniki might mean the same thing, they have completely different personalities, feel and touch to them, and oh, they sound different too. And well, Eunice doesn't “fit” me. Or does it?
I guess I still do believe in meaningful names, and for the two names I am most known as, I think I have lived up to their meanings, in some way.
Afiniki: Happy or good victory
Audrey: Noble/ full of strength
I sure have had happy victories at different points in my life, and at those times where there weren't so many victories, I had strength to pull through them. Noble? Well, not by birth but maybe I am🤷🏾♀
It's been one hell of a “name acceptance journey”, I guess, I have thought of changing my names at some point and omitting “Mhya” too but I didn't. I have grown to accept my names, say it unapologetically and use them whenever I want and whichever one of them I want to use...
I am blessed to have these names. Do you mind telling me about your names?😊
Well, after writing this, I figured I have a little bit more interest in cultures and languages than I care to admit…
This girl with no name turned out to be one with quite a lot of names!!
Much Love — Audrey❤