I Can’t Pronounce Your Name OOoh: ‘Maltreating’ Some Ghanaian Names

Ghanaian name

Some Ghanaian names are either unpronounceable or deemed unpronounceable. And the bearers of such ‘heavy’ names suffer the recurrent affliction of having to pronounce them themselves and, sometimes, deeply regret the inconvenience caused. More often than not, the persons supposed to call the tongue twisting names blame their inability to do so on the inherent unpronounceable nature of the names:
-“I can’t pronounce some of these Ewe names ooh.”
-“I can’t pronounce these northern names oooh.”
-“I can’t pronounce some of these Akan names oooh.”
In the above statements, the frustration of those tasked with the arduous responsibility is obvious. And it says, “the permissible sound combinations in your language are so difficult that I can’t pronounce your name without biting my tongue out of my mouth. But mind you, I am good at articulation. It is not my fault as you can see. Just blame your name!”
Some people carry an unwieldy burden at public places where names are mentioned aloud. They are often prayerfully on edge, pleading with God to spare them any embarrassment until their names are mentioned. Then they respond promptly as if to apologise for inconveniencing all and sundry, with special apologies to the real victim, the person who failed to pronounce the name. Others are assertive and proudly bear their names. These people don’t give two hoots about whoever can’t pronounce their names and never feel embarrassed…
Even though no rational human being expects non-speakers of their language to pronounce their names perfectly, they would be glad if a genuine effort is made to that effect. My local name is spelt as Ayine. And I expect anyone who respects my dignity as a person to, at least, pronounce what they see. But when you have someone say: “I can’t pronounce your name oooh”, with a condescending sneer, you immediately know that your indignity is without end.
There are several instances where Ghanaians treat Ghanaian names as if they were filthy or filled with something palpably ominous. Never mind that English, American, Italian, Portuguese and French names are generally pronounced well. Somewhere an authoritative “announcer of names” mentioned only the English names and required the people in question to supply their surnames, essentially the Ghanaian names. An old woman whispered to her husband that the announcer was not as educated as their predecessor. She was wrong. I knew that as a fact.
Well, let me cut to the chase and say that it shows maturity, respect and builds healthy relationships to make a genuine effort to pronounce someone’s name no matter how difficult it may be. Treating someone’s name flippantly and dismissively can be more humiliating and demeaning than hurling obvious insults at them. My name is Emmanuel Ayine Asakinaba. What is yours?

Emmanuel Asakinaba

Posted by Emmanuel Asakinaba

Student, UG. Poet. Activist. Writer.

2 comments on this post

  1. Sorni T. N. says:

    I beg your pardon Emma, but my name will raise more issues than you have articulated. I think I would save it for another occasion 😉

    1. easakinaba says:

      Yeah, sure…i will be waiting

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