Childhood nicknames we try to outgrow

Growing up, there were things that my dear mother, Nya’Manoah did and said that I hated. Most of these were done and said in public, and they brought me untold embarrassment and endless jibes from my friends.

Don’t get it twisted. I loved mama. To death. But I was also a little boy who was sensitive about some things. One of those things was how Nya’Manoah called me. I did not have an issue if she called my name in the confines of our four walls.

My name, by any other accent…

Jossie. That’s how Nya’Manoah called me, with a thick Dholuo accent. It was either that, or Josiya; also with that same accent.

Mama could never get herself to pronounce the name correctly. Depending on her mood, Nya’Manoah would call me Jossie, Josiya or some other temporary names that she sometimes made up on the spot, depending on my deed, good or bad, of the moment. The unwritten rule was that mama was the only person who was supposed to use these temporary handles. But trust my siblings to turn them into near-permanent names, and, while they are it, cause me untold distress.  

Man, as a little boy, I hated how mama butchered my name. And my friends took it right from where mama left and butchered me on the playground.  

“Ma,” I would ask, “How did you choose a name that you don’t know how to pronounce?”

“And who gave you the right to question how I can pronounce a name that I chose?”

According to mama, my name, by any other accent – and especially mama’s accent - was still my name.

What’s in a nickname?

At some age or stage, like marriage, many of us outgrow our nicknames and are bothered if we are called by it.

I am in our old boys’ WhatsApp group, and there are brothers in the group who still have the tendency of calling others by their nicknames. Some of those handles had not-so-pleasant connotations, because they were slapped on someone after, for instance, a moment of juvenile indiscretion.

And, now that we have families, the names are source of great embarrassment. Which has made some of the old boys in the group to express reservations about being called by their high school nicknames.

I have one old friend – we’ve been buddies for well over 30 years – who still calls me by my childhood nickname. He is the only person who is allowed this privilege.

“Why is uncle calling you that name?” Pudd’ng once asked me, after my friend - whom I instructed her to call uncle – called me by my childhood nickname.

Our daughter’s “country” nickname

By the way, Tenderoni is the only person who is allowed to call our daughter, Nya’Dudi. Which means, daughter of Dudi and is baby girl’s “country” nickname. Dudi is the name of the rural shopping centre-cum-bus stop, along the Kisumu-Busia Road, where we alight when we travel to our rural home. 

If and when Tenderoni returns home – say, at lunchtime – and she does not find our daughter, she does things the old-fashioned way, just like Nya’Manoah did way back when; go to the kitchen balcony and loudly holler our daughter’s name.

“Mama, you should stop referring to me as that, especially not when shouting in the neighbourhood,” Pudd’ng has been telling Tenderoni, adding that she is now a grownup.

Our daughter brings up the subject of being grownup each time she wants us to style up, or when she is trying to blackmail us into buying her a cellphone.  

“And what do you want me to do when I don’t find you at home and I have prepared lunch?”

“Call her, Nya’Dudi,” I put my foot in my mouth.

“Please don’t,” Pudd’ng implored. “Or else …”

Pudd’ng’s lucky. If I had dropped an “or else” veiled threat on mama, I would’ve got an ass-whopping, or another nickname.

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Growing upNya’Manoah