With independence in 1963 came the ‘muzungunization’ of our names. Our evolution in the last 50 years confirms that indeed names are cultural indicators and can be as dynamic as the communities they represent.
With social dynamism and intense media influence people tend to adopt what they acquire through media exposure. Take the names Jacqueline, Roseline and Caroline which are nowadays written as Jacqueline, Roselyne and Carolyne. I know Jacqueline Onassis - Kennedy popularized the current spelling with her glamour and fame.
Both Christian and Muslim names have seen changes and mutation in the way they are written. The name Mustafa is sometimes written as Mustapha. Sofia or Sophia also changes depending on ones’ faith. Barasa and Baraza, Musungu and Mzungu are used differently in parts of Kenya.
With modernism brought about by urbanization and Christianity many Kenyans opted to erase or alter their traditional names. The famous Kenyan politician Thomas Joseph Mboya was actually named ‘Mbuya’ before he replaced the ‘u’ with an ‘o’.
Since then all guys called ‘Mbuya’ deleted their ‘u’ with a ‘o’ to identify with the flamboyant politician.
Children named after their grandparents are quickly modernizing their names to suit their millennial appeal. A grandmother called Teresia Wambui will be shocked to find her granddaughter namesake is Terry Wambui as Abigael Auma is shortened to Abby Auma. Christine Nafula and Mary became Tina and Maria respectively. Although derived from biblical names, modern parents find Teresia and Abigael such a mouthful and tongue twister.
Elizabeth, Consolata and Scholastica have been ‘erased’ from the face of the earth and replaced with Liz, Connie and Schoe. Deborah also disappeared and gave way to Debra.
Wazees called Bartholomew, Zablon, Hezekiah, Philemon, Gregory, Chrispinus, Hosea and Zachariah learnt very late the grandsons they blessed and maybe bequeathed their shambas for inheriting their names are nowadays Bath, Zebby, Hez, Phil, Chris, Hos and Zack. Affidavits or no affidavits names are changing fast and swift. Old names are discarded by the day.
Historically the American as opposed to the old ancient British way of writing names picked up when Hollywood was also on the rise. Enter President Richard Nixon and out went the name ‘Nickson’. Dickson also became Dixon to the sophisticated. That is how some German family who migrated to America also dropped ‘Drumpf’ for ‘Trump’
When introducing oneself on phone as ‘Stephen’ or ‘Steven’ in Kenya the most common question would be ‘with a ‘ph or a ‘v’? The two names are very confusing until confirmed by the owners. Philip with a single ‘l’ or Phillip with double. Samwel or Samuel, Benard or Bernard the list is long.
Typical African names have not been spared by the ongoing ‘muzungunization’. Take the name of Migori Senator Ochilo Ayako which has slowly changed to ‘Ayacko’ with a ‘c’. Other names from the same region that are different in 2019 are Okech and Oketch, Okelo and Okello, Akech and Aketch. Can anyone tell us who first inserted letter ‘t’ in some of these names?