Meeting many new people means struggling with many new names. Most people we meet have at least three, although one usually seems to be an anglicised ‘Christian’ name (Francis, Joseph, Phoebe, Joyce etc). At lunch at the office on Friday, I discovered that what I had assumed to be family names where in fact descriptions, often particular to the mother’s state of mind at the time of the birth.
An Acholi name can be celebratory:
‘Aber’: I am good or beautiful, or ‘Anena’ a baby that is looked at because it is so beautiful.
‘Adong’ is the next child born after twins, or ‘Akot’, born during the rainy season.
But, the name can be quite a bit harder:
‘Arac’, I am ugly, or ‘Aporomon’ which means something like: I imitated other women.
Some names seem to be about the relationship between the mother and her in laws or her husband, for example, ‘Amone’ meaning hatred, apparently between people, families or maybe even the parents.
Does this show a difference in community relations to the West? European surnames derive, generally, from place or occupation, they are a sort of condensed CV, an identifier to those who might not know you. As someone said to us about Acholi names, there is no need for a clan name, everyone already knows you and where you are from. Names here can be far more precise.
There are more clouds in the sky now, especially towards the end of the day, the rainy season is due at the end of this month. It is certainly getting even hotter, but we have running water again after six days without; hurrah.