Colonial Nomenclature – What is in a name?


Although I have only recently celebrated my birthday, everyone says it’s a milestone, others say life begins at this point of my life. For me, it’s another point in the continuum called life. I however do my best once in a while to reassess my views on issues just to be sure age is not playing a fast one on me. I sometimes wonder if my views are not so tainted by my humble upbringing and possible environmental influences in my process of socialization. However, I would like to think I have had my fair share of the modern world, the social media space is not alien to me and I do have some considerable knowledge of gadgets, today’s fashion, modern education, travels and at least my acquired native intelligence.


So, I began to wonder, what is wrong with our names?

Back in Okitipupa where I grew up, where communal living was a great strength. NAME is not just another word but a huge asset. Name is often revered far beyond riches and other mundane acquisitions. It is often no surprise when an adult of age approaches the family of a would-be suitor, the very first quiz from the mother early in their courtship stages was, “whose child are you?” If he eventually crosses this hurdle and eventually meet her father, he would also seek same clarification. I have witnessed far too many instances when supposedly budding relationships meets their untimely death as unfavourable family’s antecedents provides the knell. At other times, all that was required to take home a suitor is also the family name. Such is the power of names in my own corner of our clime. In extreme cases, parents would rather disown a child than allow such “black sheep” bring any disrepute to a name so jealously protected and handed down from generations. I still clearly hear my mother’s repeated admonitions to us whenever we were to venture out of her reach, “ranti omo eni ti iwo nse”.

In my days in Unity Secondary School, Ode – Aye, I vividly remember one of the classes when we were taught BINOMIAL NOMENCLATURE; “a naming system in biology in which each species is assigned a unique name consisting of two parts, the name of the genus and another, of the specie it belongs”. It can be likened to our use of first and last names. We had examples like dioscorea cayanesis (yellow yam), dioscorea alata (water yam) dioscorea rotundata (white yam) and dioscorea bulbifera (air yam). In this case, all yams belong to the genus dioscorea with their varying species. These names did not only fascinate but also taught us the idea behind naming of species. So also for human, Orisadare being my family and Olutayo my first name. I relished with excitement the reactions that greet the mention of my surname where I grew up – the power of a name. Even today, in very faraway places, I would affirm with pin point accuracies names that are either Ilaje, Urhobo, Igbo, Efik, Nupe or Ikale. Such is the uniqueness of our names.

If names are that important, why then do we shy away from wearing them like the beautiful toga they ought to be? Why do the youth of today take inexplicable pleasure and pride in bastardizing names they did not originate in the first instance? Why do they work so hard to bring to naught names that took their parents at least nine months and eight days to concoct in order to express their innate feelings at the arrival of God’s own gift to them? Why do they render valueless, names that were placed on them as prayers for their today and future by no less individuals than their very first loves? It beats me stiff how like wild fire in harmattan this phenomenon is spreading amongst today’s youth. Their insensitivity is even made worse by a shocking display of ignorance. They are not able to decipher the differences in the functionalities and purposes amongst the various platforms the social media avails. I have seen on LinkedIn an Ejiro with very good academic records who is searching for jobs on using the right platform with such wrong names as “Hayjeerow”. Several other Horlarmeeday (Olamide), Phoonmee (Funmi), Engee (Ngozi) also abound. I call this practice – Colonial Nomenclature.

I shudder at some younger ones who complained about their invites on social media platforms being ignored. I often let them realize I know no such names as “Hardeyhorlar” (Adeola). Some even do the unimaginable by completely shedding their identity. We now see names like MacNuga, Odidison, UcheGod. What is the correlation I ask myself? What is wrong with our names? Must we go western even in our native names?

Just to understand their mindset, I asked a few young folks why they think this is “cool” in their words. Some don’t know why they do what they do, others simply think I am old school and I won’t understand, while a few others think some mentors “roll that way”. I was amazed. They cannot decipher between names and brands. Alibaba is a brand; his names are Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere. Despite the competition with Mississippi, this gentleman wears his name with utmost pride. He probably would find no joke if anyone bastardizes his name. I find in him a worthy role model to many young ones his native name notwithstanding. 2Face now ensures Idibia becomes a part of his brand. Everyone knows his first name is Innocent. Have you ever seen Mr. Durotoye write his first name as “Ferlah”? Wake up people!!!

I do hope this steers up a change of mindset. Especially for those hoping to secure their next jobs through online platforms, this can only be ignored to your disadvantage. There’s something known as digital footprints, “one’s overall impact, impression, or effect as manifested on the Internet; online presence or visibility, as of a person or company”. The quantum of cyber-based opportunities is statistically shocking. 94% of recruiters use, or plan to use social media for recruiting. This number has increased steadily for the last 6 years. (Source: Jobvite) . Millennials are changing the recruiting industry. An Aberdeen study found that 73% of 18-34 year olds found their last job through a social network. (Source: Aberdeen Group). 89% of all recruiters report having hired someone through LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter trailed by a wide margin, reaching only 26% and 15% respectively. (Source: Herd Wisdom). You may please check for these statistics.

Facts are facts and they are sacrosanct. NO EMPLOYER GOES OUT TO RECRUIT PEOPLE WITH MULTIPLE / CONFUSED PERSONAE. Nepotism apart, some jobs are sometimes specifically reserved for a particular group of people, names are sometimes used as pointers to the target population, you might be profiling yourself out of such opportunities with acts like this. For me, I would not employ a Yeanqa with the credentials of Yinka. Check your digital footprint for alignment or otherwise; love yourself, love your name. I am Orisadare Olutayo and proudly so.

Until the next time; find, aim and shoot at whatever you desire to achieve.


7 thoughts on “Colonial Nomenclature – What is in a name?

  1. Laolu

    Good morning Tayo. Nice article and thought provoking. First of all, happy birthday in arrears and congratulations on the milestone. May your night be greater than the morning. The issue of nomenclature and the changing attitude is a subject of great debate and you will find sound arguments on both sides.
    Our prejudice surely affects our perception, rationalisation and values. Okitipupa plays a great role in forming your affinity and respect for name or nomenclature. On a visit to the Apple Store in Westfield with my brother, I was “shocked” at the variety of staff with tattoos, piercings and whatnots that I told my brother that Apple appears “irresponsible” in its recruitment and I didn’t particularly feel comfortable in making a purchase from these set of tattooed and pierced human beings.

    I was shocked when he disagreed and stated that I was stuck in an Ibadan mindset and should open my mind to evolution and the fact that appearance counts for nothing and that these tattooed and pierced fellows were actually recruited based on their tech savvy and not there appearance.

    The Hardeolas and Dhamilholars also argue that their names have not been adulterated but modernised to allow for proper pronounciation since their circle of connection has gone global as a result of social media and globalisation. They argue further that they still respect and value the names and it’s spelling is actually an affirmation rather than a denunciation.

    For me however, I align with you and will continue to believe that a name should continue to reflect the deeper meanings intended and should not be adulterated. Am I right? I don’t know but that is my perception.

    So what’s in a name? I don’t know for others but for myself it is a reflection of my parentage, history, culture and embodiment of my being.

  2. Bravo Tayo! After reading ur article, what I will say is we need attitudinal change in the sense Socio-cultural reorientation & Psychological reengineering. But how do we achieve this is a question u haven’t answered!

    • Many thanks Prime Reporter.

      Education helps to infuse the requisite understanding necessary to help make the right choices.

      Prior to taking a course on Online Networking and Employability, I belonged to the school of thought that social media are just platforms for personal, unofficial interactions. Alas, I was wrong.

      Please see and for reference. This should give some insights into why our names (and correctly so) form part of our, if not the most important online asset.

      The advantages and necessity to having it right far outweighs any other consideration. Maybe unconsciously, have you noticed even married women (on social media) do their best to tie their maiden names to their marital names in order to establish that link?

      Let me also add that this is not limited to names. Your profile, images, activities, interactions, associations etc are part of your online identity. They should be consistent, define your essence, verifiable and accurate.

      On another note, we are African, our names carry deep meanings, symbolism and messages. Why distort it?

  3. Hello Laolu, thank you for an objective and balanced submission. Many thanks for the well wishes.

    Your position satisfies one of the reasons for the post. To open our minds, trigger sound discussions and learn in the process.

    I see perspectives and contexts playing up here.

    On Apple, I do support “conservative liberalization” in the work place. Conservative because I also believe there should be moderation too. A lot of things comes to mind on this focal organization – industry, environment, culture amongst others. It might be the perception excessive policing of their individual expressions might stifle productivity / creativity. However, I would like to believe that their outlook has got very little if anything at all to do with their identity. Well, I am not qualified to speak for Apple.

    Truly, the process of socialization affirms that we are a product of our environment – whether Ibadan or Okitipupa. However, education helps and give us the requisite knowledge to decipher and make choices.

    If the argument is that names are “modernized” to ease pronunciation in order to appeal to their now global “circle of connection”, then the modernization should be made to serve the intended purpose – ease pronunciation and not change or confuse your identity. I recalled meeting a Nigerian born top medical practitioner in the state of Ohio whose surname is Chukwumerije. She had on her card Anita Chukwumerije MD with “Choo-koo-may-ree-jay” in parenthesis. Now, that’s what I see as clarification. If she had written her name as Anita Chookoomayreejay, it would have amounted to a complete change of identity. If this was posted online, her digital footprints would have been altered. Clarification and alteration are two different words in meaning and context.

    Just like the AliBaba example, we had to learn to spell Schwarzenegger. In my opinion, Halima, Damilola, Chinedu do not only sound nice but easy to pronounce. At least in comparison to Arnold’s. Mortgaging identity on the alters of modernization is to me parochial. Let’s not be deceived by the word “social” behind the ‘media”, these platforms have progressively attained very significant importance. Banking is now carried out on Facebook, Fortune 500 companies now see reasons to be on twitter, aircraft are now sold on Instagram and Skype is today a major tool for CNN.

    There’s a complete paradigm shift in the digital world, online identity, personal branding, digital footprints cannot afford to be any different. See also and

    On a personal note, I am completely in alignment with your conclusion. At the end of it all, it is a personal choice. In today’s digital world, YOU are and would be seen as who YOU say YOU are.

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