‘What’s In A Name’
Giving a child a meaningful name in Africa requires accepting that the child has a personal dignity right from the moment of conception that needs to be respected and protected. This respect for the dignity of the newly born is symbolized through practices associated with the naming ceremony. Among the Yorubas of Western Nigeria, water is dabbed on the child´s face during the ceremony to symbolize the child´s purity and the importance of having no enemies. In some other African countries, honey and bitter kolanuts represent the sweet and bitter dimensions of the life that the child is about to begin.
I’ve also heard of parents who waited seven days before naming their children. They watched to learn their baby’s attributes through facial expressions and little mannerisms, to determine what revealed itself, for the sake of their names.
When I as born, there was no ritual. I was the last of three children. My parents named my brother, the eldest, and my brother named my sister. My mother said she named me Andrea, (pronounced Ahn-dria) because it sounded soft and peaceful. She was very purposeful in the pronunciation – the beginning carries the “ah” sound at the back of the throat, rather than the nasal “an,” often used for the name. She said it sounded warmer.
It’s a name I didn’t particularly like as a little girl. It sounded stern, and oldish. Not at all fitting for a child who liked to play. I really wanted the name Carmen.
I believe this desire came after I saw the movie “Carmen Jones,” starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belefonte.
Carmen. The character was beautiful. She was sassy, sexy and feisty. She got her way. She didn’t take stuff from anybody. Though she was a bit of a troublemaker, I wanted those “Carmen” attributes, although I was skinny, and in elementary school.
I’ve since learned to appreciate my name, which is the feminine of Andre or Andrew. I‘ve looked up its meaning, which is “manly,” with its feminine counterpart “womanly,” a rather boring description. But through a friend, Reshounn who does name analyses through what she calls the NaMe Project, I’ve learned a great deal about my name. This is from a recent analysis she performed:
Of Latin, your name means “beloved one filled with grace”.
Ps 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
The name of Andrea gives you a clever, quick, and analytical mind. Your idealistic and sensitive nature gives you a deep appreciation for the finer things of life and a strong desire to be of service to humanity. It is far easier for you to express your deeper thoughts and feelings through writing than verbally. As such, you find pleasure in literature, in poetry, and in your ideals and will turn to them when you feel you have been misunderstood. You are deeply moved by the beauties of life, especially nature.
I was touched by this analysis. Reshounn also suggested doing a word unscramble of my name. I got words like and, ear, dear, end, ran, near, read… just fun stuff. (I also did one of my middle and last names, which revealed even more words that relate to my life.)
Turns out, I’m glad I didn’t change my name to Carmen, though I badly wanted to. As I learned from Reshounn’s name research, we are, in essence, our names.
Andrea Daniel is a lifelong poet, with work in publications and as part of a visual poetry exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. When she’s not writing poetry, Andrea is a freelance writer for various publications. She also has freelanced for an internationally distributed arts and entertainment magazine. Andrea is co-owner/operator of Dakota Avenue West Publishing and copywriter, editor and voice over artist with her own small business, AND Communications. She is a member of the Motown Writer’s Network, and the Michigan Literary Network and is producer of the Michigan Literary Network’s Internet radio show on blogtalkradio.com. Additionally, she is a registered songwriter with BMI. She lives in Detroit, Michigan with her son and a sweet little Terrier-Poodle-mix named Dot.
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Like Gwendolyn, Andrea Daniel’s debut book of poetry, epitomizes nearly forty years of her life as a poet. The first chapter, “Life, death and stuff in between,” is about just that, as Andrea or someone else has experienced or she imagined it to be. “Love and such,” depicts love in its many forms. As a survivor of domestic violence, Andrea shares in “Abused Tales,” poems written in her years of recovery. And she wrote the poems in “Love for Jay,” the final chapter, during the frequent periods of separation from her (now adult) son in his early childhood years. It is the legacy of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and the beauty of her work that inspired the completion of this book.