Taking the Lord’s Name

28 01 2006

They call me Essowedeu. In Kabiye, this name literally means “God is good”. I’d say it’s a pretty good name to be remembered by.

Now, I couldn’t tell you what meaning lies behind my given name (I’m sure Bryan means something), but here in Kabiyeland, the meaning of everyone’s name plain as day, for better or worse.

God names are especially popular. We know people named:

Essowe – “God is”

Essosinam – “God helps me”

Essosimna – “God knows”

Essodrong – “God’s strength”

Essohanam – “God gives to me”

Essoyamewe – “God calls and I am”

Essodeke – “God only”

Akiliesso – “Who is greater than God?”

and Mansimaesso – “I know God”

We even have a friend whose name is just plain Esso, “God”.

One of my favorite God names, in the Old Testament prophetic tradition, is Essodizinawe – “God destroys them.” A name like that will make people pause before crossing you. I’m glad the guy is one of our night guardians!

Just about everyone on our team has a God name, which can be a bit confusing at times. Dave is called Essolaba, “God did it”. Matt’s Kabiye name is Essolaki, or “God does it”. Maybe they should have named me Essogalabo which means “God will do it”!

While God names are abundant, they aren’t the only type of name given. We’ve had visitors named for their appearance. For instance, Abalokisemo – “Red Man” – was so named for his red hair and complexion (not because he chewed tobacco.) We’ve also had fun introducing friends with a humorous name like Palolamtombolo, which means “I was born naked.”

Apparently, names are often given to children so as to send messages to others or to mark a recent event. Patamesam, “They can’t hide from me”, was named during a family feud. So were Pewelesinam, “They listen to me” and Taawelesi, “Don’t listen”. (These two names faced off when the former went to the latter’s house to preach the Gospel. Sadly, Taawelesi held true to his name.)

I don’t know the circumstances behind the naming of Aninam, “Who understands me?” and Powokinamle, “Where are they taking me?”, but I bet it is a good story. As a former youth minister, I like to think that it is possible they took these names for themselves when they were teenagers.

Manchasiba, “My father died” was probably named when her grandfather died around the same time as her birth. Sim, or” Death”, was so named because when he was born, a bunch of people had died. (No, he does not wear a black cloak and carry a sickle!)

Still, none of these names are as bad as they could have been. I know a man named Mankpafeye which literally means “I am ashamed”. Yikes!

Like I said before, I’m not sure what Bryan means. So maybe I’m not one to pass judgement.

Still, here’s hoping that Bryan isn’t in the same class as Mankpafeye!




3 responses

29 01 2006
Randy & Kelly Vaughn

I had been wondering about your username….glad I now know. The Aja don’t give us names…always had hoped that I would come to Africa and get one (what would the Kabiye call me?) Because the “R” is often impossible for the Aja tongue to pronounce (they pretty much just substitute “L”), I am often called Landy.
Not sure the meaning of that either. Maybe Landy is “good looking man” where Randy means “smells funny”?
-Randy (aka Landy)

30 01 2006
Carter Davis

Is the Aja substituting the L for the R the opposite of the Chinese substituting the R for the L? (as in Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra Ra-ra-ra-ra instead of Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la from the movie A Christmas Story – the scene in the Chinese restaurant) At least if you believe everything you see on TV.

2 02 2006
Travis Fry

Long time no see. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit next to your brother in 2 classes now at ACU, and can testify that he lives up to the expectation that the rest of the Ries boys set. I seem to remember that I was called Essodrong myself, though I think my “normal” name is more descriptive of my state. “Travis” means “man from the crossroads” or something like that, and I feel like I’ve always lived on the way to somewhere else. Say hey to the family for me.

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