Most people have a family member or child hood friend that was nicknamed Pookie, Nu Nu, Man Man, L-Dawg, OG Triple OG, or Cookie. It’s apart of black culture to have those nicknames because many times they help us identify with our childhood and where we come from. They say a name can mean everything in how the world judges you in many cases. There was a study done a few years back that looked at the way employers looked at the names on resumes and how they looked at them in accordance of employment. When it comes to the nick names we give our children can they also be harmful to their progression and mental capacity? This week’s guest post is from Danielle (@dannikay) of Faith, Fellas, and Freebies as she will be talking about the history of Nick Names in the African-American culture.
The re-appropriation of European names given to Afrikkan slaves by their masters is an empowering tradition. Its purpose is to take back the identity once lost to our people during the African American genocide. Last names, such as “Cotton”, were given to slaves to brand them by slave labor or their physical features. The names given to the slaves specified who “owned” them. Sojourner Truth, formerly known as Isabella, cited she was given her new name in a dream. Yet, one wonders if we’ve lost that tradition along the way and are now damaging our children with the names we pledge are “endearing”.
As stated in Slavery in America, “A more direct survivor of African naming-practices is the use of nicknames. Almost every black person in slavery was known by two names: a given name and a name used only within the family circle.” Code names and language is an intrinsic part of our history. Common nick names listed on Slavery in America include: ”Pie Ya, Puddin’-tame, Frog, Tennie C., Monkey, Mush, Cooter, John De Baptist, Fat-Man, Preacher, Jack Rabbit, Sixty, Pop Corn, Old Gold, Dootes, Angle-eye, Bad Luck, Sky-up-de Greek, Cracker, Jabbo, Cat-Fish, Bear, Tip, Odessa, Pig-Lasses, Rattler, Pearly, Luck, Buffalo, Old Blue, Red Fox, Coon, and Jewsharp.”
These “pet names” stick until adulthood. Many of us want to totally disassociate ourselves from the nick names our family has given us and who can blame us? Some are harmless variations of a person’s name like “Re Re” or “Ty Ty” and others are just plain cruel – I’ll refer to my uncle Poopus. I’ve also heard of names like “Pie crust” representing “the ash around his lips”, and “Poodle Dick” which I hope doesn’t need further explanation. One wonders if this self-defecating practice is helping or hindering our children’s self concept. We left beautiful Afrikkan names such as Aniyka, which has a Gullah-origin meaning “she is beautiful” behind. Instead, we adopt the ‘slave names’ once used as a form of psychological degradation as “endearing”. While radicals may fight for our right to “re-appropriate”, I wonder, how do these “names” translate in the minds and actions of our children?
Black children are often labeled “disadvantaged” and “at-risk” before every setting foot in an educational and socioeconomic system that is not designed for them. They will internalize whatever negative stereotypes and expectations they may face in society, and I question whether the depreciating “nick names” their families bestow on them only exacerbate the erosion of the innate resilience black children historically possess. Does constantly correcting of pronunciation of the “apostrophe” in their names to unconcerned teachers who dismissively reply “I’m not even going to attempt that name”, leave our children frustrated? How aggravating then must it continue to be when they return home to ‘nick names’ such as “Rubber lip”?
We are all aware of the commonly referred to “ghetto” names embraced by urban society and they are shunned by Euro-influenced corporate America. These names are sometimes derived from car brands and designers ie. Fendi. While I vehemently disagree with a child being judged because of the creativity of their name, there are some names that make you want to slap the parents. For example, I know someone named Tona Arun…no seriously, that’s his legal name. His mother’s explanation for the name left me mute, “I named him Tona because he weighed a ton and I wanted him to hurry up and run out of me,” #speechless…drops mic and walks away.
Traditionally, when parents named or nick named their children it was a plea to divine authority that this child would embody the character and/or attributes their name carried. The affirmation given by a name was key in how society would view the child. More importantly, it was instrumental in how the child would view themselves. It’s time we put serious thought back into naming our children because the naming process has officially left the realm of ridiculous and toppled over into catastrophic!
- Un-Lynched: An Economic Empowerment Doctrine for African … (up4discussion.org)
- SEX SLAVERY AMERICA; Nicole, a teen girl made ready by gang rape to be a sex slave – her story of untold truth be told! (animalsclubfreedom.typepad.com)
- Four Ways You May Be Showing Childish Behavior in a Grown Up Relationship (blackandmarriedwithkids.com)
- My 15 Minutes Of Unexpected Infamy: Diddy’s Kiddies, Reuters, And How Sensational News Stories Get Made. (averagebro.com)
- I lie, I owe, so off to jail I go. (field-negro.blogspot.com)
- Feminism has always existed in Africa (msafropolitan.com)