BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe: Thirty-two years ago in western Zimbabwe, a baby boy named Tlapi was born so sick that his parents feared he would die. They took him to sangomas, or traditional healers, and to Western-style doctors, but nothing worked. It seemed that God, not man, would decide his fate.
So when he was 1 year old, Tlapi's parents changed his name to reflect that.
"Some people think I'm lying when I tell them my name," said Godknows Nare, who survived to become a freelance photographer. "They think I am teasing them. But I'm not."
Not at all. In Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, another Godknows was a waiter at a popular outdoor café. So was a man named Enough, about whom more will be said later. Across southern Africa, in fact, one can find any number of Lovemores, Tellmores, Trymores and Learnmores, along with lots of people named Justice, Honour, Trust, Gift, Energy, Knowledge and even a Zambian athlete named Jupiter.
Some Westerners chuckle. Perhaps they are oblivious - Oblivious is another Zimbabwean name, actually - to the fact that they once idolized a cowboy star named Hopalong, or that many baby girls carry the name of a jewelry store through life.
Indeed, Godknows, Enough and company are a continuation of an African tradition arguably more logical than the one that churns out excess Justins and Tiffanys. In southern Africa, a child's name is chosen to convey a specific meaning and not, as is common in the West, the latest fashion.
Increasingly, however, those traditional names are bestowed not in Ndebele, Sotho or some other local language, but in English, the world's lingua franca. English names arrived with colonial rule, were further imposed by missionaries and, for some, became fashionable with the spread of Western culture.
But for Godknows, Enough and others, the result can be confusion - and sometimes, hilarity - even among fellow Africans.
"Quite a few people tell me I am cursed," said Hatred Zenenga, an editor at the main Zimbabwean government-controlled newspaper, The Herald. "They say my name is un-Christian. They tell me that I should change it to Lovewell, or some other Christian name. And others are just surprised - 'How did you get that name?' "
Hatred got his name the way millions of other children here have - as a means of recording an event, a circumstance or even the weather conditions that accompanied their births.CLICK FOR EXCERPTS HERE UNDER;
A boy named Godknows: In southern Africa, names that say a mouthful - International Herald Tribune