I’m still reading Americanah and I just finished this bit in the book in which the white Americans kept asking the protagonist, Ifemelu, whether they were pronouncing her name properly and how it was such a beautiful name and all that. The book then went on to talk about integrity in keeping one’s God-given accent and Nigerian name and that’s where I paused and had a rather existential moment.
We all know my name is Georgina, it is the name my parents chose for me, it means “farmer”, it’s the female variation of George which is actually Greek. But, it’s weird because, I’m Nigerian. Growing up, I used to ask my mum why I had such a name, not that I don’t like it but all my fellow Nigerian peers have Nigerian names as their first names. She would tell me that was the name they liked and it suited me but of course, as I got older, I asked again and my mother told me it was to make my life in the diaspora easier.
Secondary school in Nigeria, however, wasn’t necessarily easy with such a name. I know for a fact that I made people uncomfortable just with my name: it was too hard to pronounce, too foreign, too pretentious. I cannot count the number of times I’ve told people my name for them to ask me where I’m from ethnically and then see the abject confusion spread across their face almost immediately. Some people even think I’m lying, they tell me “No, for real, tell me your real name” or “but you said you’re Nigerian, what’s your name?” as if I’m one of those fake people who come to the UK and completely reform themselves, with an equally as unrecognisable accent in tow. Don’t even get me started on the way people butcher my name, the mispronunciations would be hilarious if they weren’t being directed to me. I have to choose which name to use, depending on what, who and where. It’s not confusing, I’ve grown to be adaptable and to answer to either of my many names. There was just something about that book that struck a chord – does me having an English first name make me a cheater? Does it reduce my sincerity, my Nigerianess, my integrity simply because I do not bare the pleasure and sometimes burden of having a Nigerian first name?
Nowadays, I feel like I have a point to prove by assuring people that I do have a Nigerian name, just to fit in. It’s absurd, I know. I’m not the first Nigerian with an English name as a first name but come on, the ones that you know have nice and easy names like David and Joshua or Sarah, they have Bible names, not peculiar names that you don’t hear everyday.
I grew up feeling an English first name was the way to go, it set you apart and it was what I would do for my own children: they would reap the benefits of having an easy to pronounce, simplistic name, to ensure their survival in the Western world. My brother and I are the only ones out of all the cousins from my mum and dad’s families to have English first names, isn’t that saying something?
With all this being said, it still doesn’t ensure a smooth ride. I was in Starbucks with my friend after our exam yesterday, ordering Frappucinos and standard, the barista asked “You want cream?” “Yes.” “Your name?” “Georgina.” She paused and glanced at me, as if I was actually fucking with her. I proceeded to spell it, “G-E-O” and she put her hand up, motioning for me to stop and she says “G is enough.” Like, bish what?
I can’t help but feel a slight pang of betrayal towards the motherland when I really think about what my name is. I feel like I’m letting my peers down, like I’m taking the easy way out by having an easier to understand name whilst they have vowel-rich, syllable-overloaded, beautiful, lyrical names with the most wonderful meanings whilst I’m just the farmer. It doesn’t make me want to start using my second name on a first-name basis because, well, better the devil you know. It just makes me think. And no, I don’t know what names my future children will bear, I haven’t decided which burden I will bestow upon them yet.
Song of the Week
Don’t miss me too much,