Zimbabweans in the UK have a torrid time with their names. Most people have got English names given to them by their parents.
Probably our parents saw a notice on an electric pole which says danger, and then they name their child Danger. They never thought for a moment that they will travel abroad and have problems in sorting out their names. or maybe a parent saw a big problem unsolved and Several months later, a child was born, and she is named Trouble. I have a family called Chimbambaira family, they named their son Trouble and indeed he was Trouble. At the time, Trouble wasn’t as common as it is today, but growing up people knew it was traditionally a boy’s name. People always commented on it or asked about it, and when Trouble was young, He enjoyed that extra attention. People in Zimbabwe didn’t think it was weird or different.
Most parents just thought anything English was a name; as a result Zimbabweans have names like Precious, Bouncer, Danger Never, Energy, Honourladdies, innocent, Wisdom Courage and many more disturbing names. In the 1980s I was enrolled at Swaziland University, I had a horrible experience and up to this day I still laugh about it. I arrived at the airport and I presented my passport. The immigration Officer on the other side looked at me with a grin. He called another office, within five minutes there were ten 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 then wished me a good stay and let me in. arriving at school the students jumped up and down in total laughter. I remember a tall guy called Gabriel Masuku with such long legs rolling down with laughter. each time I mentioned my name someone gets either angry or will burst into laughter.
I did not understand anything until one day a librarian called me for making noise. She asked my name and I said slowly my name is Masimba Musasane Mavaza my English name is Godwell. The woman was enraged and she tossed me straight away to the Dean of Student affairs. It was then I was told the meaning of my names. Masimba in Siswati means human excretes the middle name is unprintable and the surname means madness. so you can understand why she was enraged. in this experience I really do understand my country man in England with English verbs turned to names.
Throughout my life I’ve received a variety of responses when I introduce myself. There are people who just say “What?” or “Huh?” or seriously and I need to repeat my name or explain it. A few years ago I started saying, Vazet – like a dude.” Then there are the people who tell me that my parents must have wanted something else. The worst response happened when I my young brother was working at his first job in England. The supervisor said to him you do not have to move around declaring your innocence this is not a court of law. Give us your real name. He repeated his name Innocent. Some idiots started calling him guilty and some made fun out of his name. This experience has made him over sensitive he does not take jokes slightly he lived a joke. Your parents must not have liked you very much.” most Zimbabweans with names which were thrown at them and not given always receive such comments. most remain professional and polite on the phone, but as soon as they hung up they had to take a long coffee break to cool off. Their names makes them always a laughing stoke and very angry. They know some people would give you that “a rose by any other name” blah blah blah, but what is more intrinsically you than your name? When someone attacks it, it feels like they are attacking you. On the other end of the spectrum, the funniest response to the names is guys who try to use it as a pickup line: A colleague had a very nasty experience with the Police, his name was Nevermid, imagine the police told his he is speeding, they ask for his name and the answer is Nevermind. Some names to invite problems. Imagine a person called Union, the police ask him why is he in a company of drug dealers and what his name was. His answer becomes Union.
in a very interesting encounter a man hit this Zimbabwean girls backside by mistake, the girl is upset and looked at him. The guy apologised and said to her what your name madam is? I need to apologise personally. She answered, my name is Evernice. What will the man think? Our names become sources of ridicule and some entirely sources of stress. Some names like Pardon. Sinfree, Have a nice look, yes that’s a name Have a nice look. The great thing about seeing different reactions to Zimbabwean names is that it immediately lets you know what kind of person you are dealing with. A brief period of confusion or a question about it is fine, but people turn to be openly rude or offensive. Those are the ones that we immediately know are not our kind of people.
Nevertheless Zimbabweans love their names. Their names were a proof that the parents at least knew some English. They love that there aren’t a million other people with it, and that people ask about it. They love it when people say positive things about it and when they say, “That’s so different.” I love embracing the weirdness — the thing that makes Zimbabweans different. And the best thing? When you have an unusual name, people remember you. You have something that stands out to people and you’re less likely to fade into the background. You catch their eye in a way no one else can.
In all seriousness, this is not that big of a deal. But when you’re having a party for your Seven year old not a single key chain, pen, or stationary has her name on it, it gets to you a little. And the oddest part is that you will never stop looking. You know you will never ever find the name on any of those items, but that doesn’t stop you from looking for it every damn time.
Imagine a scenario in which someone asks you your name, you tell them, and they say it back to you with a completely different pronunciation than the one you used. Excuse me sir, did you think I was lying to you? Did you think I accidentally pronounced my own name wrong? What in the world would make you think that my name sounds like anything other than what I just uttered?
As is the day your college professor passes back all the tests. There comes a point in your life when you recognize the look of confusion on the professor’s face when they get to your general area of the alphabet, and you decide to take one for the team and step forward. Assuming they’re stuck on your name is far easier than dealing with the awkward pronunciation that is about to ensue. First, people will tell you they’ve never heard that name before. And then when you explain its origins, they ask if your parents made it up. Well, ummm, no, because I just gave you the origins of the damn thing. They’ll ask if it’s a nickname for something, they’ll ask where your parents are from, and they’ll ask every question they can think of until they finally accept that it’s a name and there’s nothing they can do about it.
There is nothing more satisfying in life than finding a person who not only pronounces your name correctly the first try, but also knows exactly where it came from. Heck, they even have a great aunt with that name but that person will be another Zimbabwean. You need to understand that it may not be your cup of tea, and sometimes it isn’t teirs, but you have to live with it. You can’t count the amount of times you’ve gotten a “REALLY?! I thought my name was bad!”
The dangers of our Zimbabwean attempted English names is If a rumour is spread about you, it’s spread about you. It’s not about a girl named Mary that someone will forget tomorrow. You’re the only person with that name in a 500-mile-radius and you are sure as hell known for your actions. Consider this: if my name was Sarah and I hooked up with a boy, that boy’s friends and peers would not know the difference between me and every other Sarah at my college. But when I hook up with a boy and then proceed to introduce myself to other people, I am constantly met with the You dumb it down for them, so when the look of pure confusion comes across their face (as it usually does) you can help them out by explaining it in its simplest terms. In fact, you may even have a rhyme for it.
It starts with the mean ones, the ones they know will annoy you. Somewhere along the line your friends try to be clever and give you a nickname that they try to use often. And then finally, when you think they’ve thought of every single nickname for your weird name, someone decides to call you by the first letter of your name. Most Zimbabweans with the English pretence names wish they had time to tell their parents to change the names. Can you imagine people called Friday, Monday, Monthend Chikara Original Kwadza Herbs, and indeed Succeed and Success, others are called Comfort and Courage even Apology Masina my long lost friend with Freedom and Bloodpath my comrade answering to such names.