Thursday, April 29, 2004

I just have to say your name 

Still too busy to blog much, but one thing I noticed from the election last week was that the ANC’s candidate for the Northern Province is called Darkie Afrika. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Names in South Africa are fascinating – the blend of cultures and languages leading to some interesting combinations, like the aforementioned Darkie.

Afrikaner names are tricky for a Pom to pronounce, being based on guttural ancient Dutch names, and they often use nicknames as a matter of course. This can be fun. To go with Darkie, a popular nickname is Whitey. Good team. Sakkie (pronounced sucky) is also quite common, as is the surname de Kok. You figure the rest out.

The coloured community in the Cape are in some cases descended from freed slaves, so have either the name of their ancestor’s owner, or are named after the month they were born, or maybe bought. January, February, and so on are therefore common surnames in this area.

African names are wonderfully musical, albeit sometimes tongue twisting. Xhosa and Zulu, the two most popular African languages here, include clicks, made by various combinations of tongue, teeth and palate. These are very tricky for a Pom without a lot of practice. In the past, most Africans anglicised their names to make pronunciation easier. Nowadays, they are thankfully far less likely to do this, so Nonkiso and Tsepho replace Nancy and Steve. Often these names remind me that all names have a meaning, although it is usually not as deeply buried as it is in developed countries. Lots of black Africans seem to be named after emotions or virtues, so their names translate literally as Happiness or Patience. I once met a guy called Professor. The same is true of almost all names if you look deep enough. There is more that unites us than divides us, or something like that. According to a current bank advert anyway.

Listening to: Warren Zevon, may he rest in peace. Must be doing it a lot, because my wife now knows the songs.

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