Why don’t you stick to your name?



What’s in a name? Quite a lot, seemingly. Shakespeare is my witness. At any rate, lots of us students are at it (changing a name that is). I saw a first-year student last week (who thought I was one by the way), arguing with a friend that an elevator is better called a “lift”.

I was surprised when she tried to pry open the elevator door by literally pushing it.

Being a gentleman, I came, tapped the button, stood aside and logged onto Facebook, amidst the looks on faces I had no luxury to look at.

Students do it, sometimes with bewilderingspeed. Changing “Elizabeth” to “Liz” is the new growth industry.

Politicians do it. Adults do it too, particularly when they marry or un-marry. I personally dropped the name “Bura” when I joined Uganda Christian University, a sign of my accelerating pomposity, my friends said then.

Changing one’s name seems a self-made licence to be different. In fact, many people these days do not change their names when they marry, a sign perhaps that they do not intend to be different.

I remember attending a trendy workshop in my first year where you were invited to invent a new name before attending, with the promise that no one, not even the seminar leader, would know your real one.

There were two Black Mambas (I had wanted to use that too), I recall, one Nusurah and another called Praise.

After much agony I went through myself, I was ashamed at first of my lack of imagination, then proud of my integrity.

What it meant, however, the seminar leader told me, was that I was there under false pretences.

I didn’t want to find a new “me”.

A new name, however, is only the start of a determination to be different, to have a new beginning, a rebirth even. But who then shall we be? The same as before, I bet.

I used to tell some friends not to look over their shoulders, meaning that they did not need to ape their colleagues, that they should set their own standards and make their own definitions of success.

I have weird names but in the next world, they will not ask me why I was not Moses but why I was not me. And as for me, I don’t want to die knowing that I had only pretended to live.

Don’t change names to fit in a clique of your new friends. You have to trust your eye or your ear. And you have, above all, to believe that there is a tune for you, or as Paul put it to the cosmopolitan and fun-loving Corinthians, the yuppies of yester-years, you must believe that the spirit is in each one and every one of us, with a different message for each but for the good of all.

If you don’t believe that, you will just be a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal, or today a laptop and a mobile phone of someone else.

Brian is lawyer in making and writer at large.


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