By Joseph Maina
Choosing names for my children was probably the hardest decision of my parenting career. Remember, a baby’s name is an indelible signature that lasts a lifetime.
Traditionally, most parents picked their babies’ names from religious books. Others named their children after famous people in society, saints, events or rich relatives.
Sadly, these baby-naming canons are no longer in practice, as most parents are hankering for ‘trendy’ names. A name like John — which was hugely popular some time back — is slowly becoming history. Similarly, other good names such as Samson, Simon, Joshua, Emilio and my name (Joseph) are slowly packing their bags.
It all started like a joke, but our neighbourhood is now inundated with ‘modern’ names like Chavez Mwangi, Honda Otieno, Superman Wafula and World Cup Mutai.
Among the girls, we have Martinas, Tiaras and Princesses; and this has given rise to all manner of hideous permutations. A while ago, I came across a girl called Mary Christmas Aluoch! Just like with the boys, traditional names such as Beatrice, Magdalene, Conjestina and Esther have become dinosaurs. The list is growing, and there seems to be no end to this dizzying cocktail of ridiculous christenings.
Last Monday, my neighbour made a pilgrimage to Pumwani Population Centre, where she was blessed with a bouncing baby boy. She named him Tupac Kipruto. Her eldest child is called Dolly-Parton Chep’ngeno, while her second-born is Beyonce Chepkemoi.
Then, on Wednesday, one of Mama Jimmy’s friends gave birth to a boy, and, following wide consultations with family, friends and the Internet, she christened him Timberlake Mutua. This is the same woman who saw it fit to name her first-born after a car (Mercedes), and her second-born after the then ICC prosecutor (Moreno).
Apparently, parents in my neighbourhood have engaged in an arms race for the trendiest names, where everyone seems to be losing — particularly the juniors.
“Are those names for her children or nicknames for a social media account?” I asked Mama Jimmy that evening, moments after our other neighbour, Mama Condoleeza, texted us the good news. From the look of things, Mama Condoleeza, too, has been tarmacking the Internet, in an effort to ‘floss’ and stand out.
In my anger, I blamed the trend on those ‘dotcom’ parents who spend too much time on the Internet. Others watch too many movies, or took too many drugs in their youth. This might explain why good judgment has been tossed out the window in the naming of children these days.
But my comptroller does not see it this way. “What’s wrong with those names?” she wondered, at which I was overcome by a strong feeling of pity for those children.
With such silly-sounding names, there must be tremendous embarrassment whenever such children introduce themselves to large gatherings. I am sure there are teachers who hold back smiles whenever they read out some of these funny names.
Had it been up to me, I would have gone for more folksy names, such as Simon, Hosea or Moses. As a rule, baby’s name should be sensible, easy to pronounce and easy on the ear. ‘Moses’ remains my favourite, and it checks all the boxes of things I love in a name.
On hearing this, the comptroller threw me a quizzed look.
“Ah, those are old-fashioned names. Times have changed,” she dismissed, while rolling her eyes.
“But dear, this baby-naming crisis is getting out of hand,” I maintained, but she was not listening.
“Inaonekana bado uko enzi za analogue,” she said while making a beeline for the kitchen, and that was the end of the news.
So there you have it, fellow parents. Sometime in the future, I should not be surprised to walk into a hospital that is managed by a Dr Shakira Moraa, where a surgeon called Fabregas Oluoch will probably operate on my colon.
Our roads might be constructed by an engineer named Hu Jin Otieno or Xi Chege, while Alejandro Ongeri will likely be my county’s senator in 2030.