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Monday’s child

The Akan of Ghana name their children after days of the week, birth order, and sometimes notable facts about their birth. Kofi Atta Annan, for example, was a twin born on a Friday. But nobody wants to be called Obím̀pέ.

Kofi Annan

US Mission in Geneva [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These names are “day names” – relating to the day, order, and other details of the child’s birth. A baby born on Friday is Kofi (if male) or Afua (if female); Monday’s child is Kwadwó (male) or Adwoa (female). The birth order often comes next: firstborn is Píèsíe, second-born is Mǎnu and Máanu, all the way down to fourteenth born (!) Agyeman.

Twins get special names too: Atá (male) or Ataá (female) – sometimes written as Atta. Kofi Atta Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, was born on a Friday and was one of a pair of twins. There’s a nice tradition about twins in Ghana actually: the twin that comes out first is the younger twin, and the twin who comes out second is older. Supposedly the second twin showed their maturity by staying behind in order to help the other one out. I’ll push, you pull?

There’s one more set of names: those from special circumstances. A child born in wartime, for example, could be Bekṍe or Bedíàkṍ. A child born to parents who had been trying for a child for a long time could be Nyamékyε. Tragically, a child disowned by his or her father might be named Yεmpέ or Obím̀pέ, which translate as “we don’t want you” and “nobody wants you” respectively.

Ouch.

Categories: Africa Language Places

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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