Home Western Voices WESTERN VOICES: CAN YOU WRITE YOUR NAME…CORRECTLY?

WESTERN VOICES: CAN YOU WRITE YOUR NAME…CORRECTLY?

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By Akin Owolabi

 

The most basic thing about a person is name. You cannot

claim to know a person intimately unless you know him by

name. Many erroneously claim to know the True God even

without knowing His personal name. One of the worst

plagues that can afflict a man is to be hazy about his own name

even without knowing it. Another truism is that formal education

tries to improve its recipient to the degree to which individuals imbibe

it. So it could be said to a high level of certitude that the higher

an individual’s education the more enlightened he tends to be.

It is however nauseating that Western education, which is the

yardstick for measuring the rise above illiteracy, is currently playing

yo-yo on an important facet of its creation through the use of multiple

names of every individual that is in its warm embrace. How?

Deep into human history, names are simple and uncomplicated.

So we know individuals, even in Bible times, by their personal

names. We know the first man by the name Adam and his wife

simply as Eve, not even Mrs. Eve Adam.

Adam’s children bore their personal names – Cain and Abel –

without the encumbrance of a suffix. Ditto for Noah, his children,

Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon and the rest whose progeny all bore

their personal names.

Surname is simply an after-event which means something being

added as supplement to the real thing. So, it is the additional name

that is sur-joined to the personal name of the individual. But very

curious development has cropped up along the line to viciously

disrupt the simple art of nomenclature and the very vehicle for

enlightenment – formal education – is the one toppling the apple

cart in very insidious way.

The school system has successfully turned the surname to the

first and vice versa. The school system from basic through secondary

provides that the father’s name be written first before the pupil/

student’s. This has unwittingly reversed the art of naming to the

extent that a sizable number of educated Nigerians are putting the

art’s cap askew. This may be curious but it is true.

An academic deputy vice chancellor of a Federal university has

his surname written first on his complimentary card; the middle

name next and the first – personal name – last without indicating

which is which to those not familiar with his credentials. A guest

lecturer on a germane topic, who is also the head of a department

in one of the private universities, did not object to his name being

printed on the lecture booklet with the father’s name coming first

and an abbreviated personal name second. Subsequent mentions

in the preface to the presentation added a third name, presumably

middle, last leaving the first written name constant to suggest that

it was the surname. A simple punctuation would have resolved the

 

The delegates at a seminar for senior administrative staff of a

tertiary institution were asked to write their names before the commencement

of a presentation. The paper on which the names were

written was passed round for the delegates to underscore their

surnames. The exercise revealed that more than 40 per cent underlined

the first names on the sheet even without initially indicating

that such were their fathers’ or families’.

Primary and secondary pupils are in the habit of putting their

surnames before their personal ones with many compounding

the two with a hyphen. This abnormality has scaled the walls of

the three tiers of the educational system and made deep inroad to

the larger society. What began like an incipient and could easily

be shaken off by the older generation school products has today

become torrents and avalanche and is fast donning the togas of

norm and ascending the platform of decency.

It is not clear where the dis-juncture in names writing crept

from the classrooms into the workplace but one thing is true – the

anomaly was not sudden. It was insipid and surreptitious. Reversal

of the inherent tardiness may be verging the impossible in view of

its having climbed up to the upper crust of the academy and the

workplace. It is not uncommon for people to be called Mister So,

So and So using their first names whereas the prefix – Mr. should

address the person by the surname. This may appear trifling but

with damning psychological damage to the social fabric of a society,

signposting a society cruising on the fast lane to severe cultural lag.

Putting the surname first is not a crime. Many establishments

often request that candidates’ biodata should be preceded by surnames.

Individuals may choose to push their family names to the

fore but the rules guiding this must be strictly adhered to. Writing

surnames first suggests that such should either be set off by a coma

or all letters written in capital letters or the surname underscored.

Either of these three steps suffices but their absence is the contraption

that has impelled this piece. The Holy Scriptures say: “Let

those who have ears listen to what the spirit says.” Can You Write

Your Name … Correctly?

 

The most basic thing about a person is name. You cannot claim

to know a person intimately unless you know him by name. Many

erroneously claim to know the True God even without knowing His

personal name. One of the worst plagues that can afflict a man is

to be hazy about his own name even without knowing it. Another

truism is that formal education tries to improve its recipient to the

degree to which individuals imbibe it. So it could be said to a high

level of certitude that the higher an individual’s education the more

enlightened he tends to be.

It is however nauseating that Western education, which is the

yardstick for measuring the rise above illiteracy, is currently playing

yo-yo on an important facet of its creation through the use of multiple

names of every individual that is in its warm embrace. How?

Deep into human history, names are simple and uncomplicated.

So we know individuals, even in Bible times, by their personal

names. We know the first man by the name Adam and his wife

simply as Eve, not even Mrs. Eve Adam.

Adam’s children bore their personal names – Cain and Abel –

without the encumbrance of a suffix. Ditto for Noah, his children,

Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon and the rest whose progeny all bore

their personal names.

Surname is simply an after-event which means something being

added as supplement to the real thing. So, it is the additional name

that is sur-joined to the personal name of the individual. But very

curious development has cropped up along the line to viciously

disrupt the simple art of nomenclature and the very vehicle for

enlightenment – formal education – is the one toppling the apple

cart in very insidious way.

The school system has successfully turned the surname to the

first and vice versa. The school system from basic through secondary

provides that the father’s name be written first before the pupil/

student’s. This has unwittingly reversed the art of naming to the

extent that a sizable number of educated Nigerians are putting the

art’s cap askew. This may be curious but it is true.

An academic deputy vice chancellor of a Federal university has

his surname written first on his complimentary card; the middle

name next and the first – personal name – last without indicating

which is which to those not familiar with his credentials. A guest

lecturer on a germane topic, who is also the head of a department

in one of the private universities, did not object to his name being

printed on the lecture booklet with the father’s name coming first

and an abbreviated personal name second. Subsequent mentions

in the preface to the presentation added a third name, presumably

middle, last leaving the first written name constant to suggest that

it was the surname. A simple punctuation would have resolved the

 

The delegates at a seminar for senior administrative staff of a

tertiary institution were asked to write their names before the commencement

of a presentation. The paper on which the names were

written was passed round for the delegates to underscore their

surnames. The exercise revealed that more than 40 per cent underlined

the first names on the sheet even without initially indicating

that such were their fathers’ or families’.

Primary and secondary pupils are in the habit of putting their

surnames before their personal ones with many compounding

the two with a hyphen. This abnormality has scaled the walls of

the three tiers of the educational system and made deep inroad to

the larger society. What began like an incipient and could easily

be shaken off by the older generations school products has today

become torrents and avalanche and is fast donning the togas of

norm and ascending the platform of decency.

It is not clear where the dis-juncture in names writing crept

from the classrooms into the workplace but one thing is true – the

anomaly was not sudden. It was insipid and surreptitious. Reversal

of the inherent tardiness may be verging the impossible in view of

its having climbed up to the upper crust of the academy and the

workplace. It is not uncommon for people to be called Minster So,

So and So using their first names whereas the prefix – Mr. should

address the person by the surname. This may appear trifling but

with damning psychological damage to the social fabric of a society,

signposting a society cruising on the fast lane to severe cultural lag.

*Owolabi, journalist and former newspaper editor,

is based in Ota

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