Giving our children made-up names

Jamaicans have always a been creative people. Witness our many contributions to the arts: In music we’ve given the world reggae, dancehall and ska. In literature we’ve produced Roger Mais, Claude McKay and Louise Bennett. In the visual arts, Edna Manley, Barrington Watson and Albert Huie. Sometimes, however, I wonder if all this unbridled creativity doesn’t need some “curbing”. So, for example, there’s the issue of made-up names…

More and more I’m noticing persons with names that seem to be, how do I put this politely, invented, concocted or just pulled out of thin air! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it should never happen (ok, I don’t think it should happen much) and I’m not saying the names are necessarily unattractive either. I’m just fascinated (ok, and a little disturbed too) by the thought processes behind some of these inventions. So, for example, one common approach seems to be to just add “ique” or “nique” to an existing name and, voila! The result is the likes of Sashanique, Veronique and Junique.


Another approach is to combine the names of the parents to produce a name for the child. So Berteisha is what you get when you combine Robert and Keisha. Derlieth is the (unfortunate?) result of merging Derrick and Elieth. But it makes you wonder, what happens when parents with made-up names combine their made-up names to create new made-up names for their children? Scary.

The names that really traumatise me though are the ones that appear to be entirely original; just pulled out of thin air or dreamed up in the middle of the night. So, the other day at the supermarket I heard a mother say “Kerishekeema, stop playing with the groceries!” If I was Kerishekeema I would be too busy arranging a Deed Poll to have time to play with the groceries.

All this is bad and not so bad when the person with the made-up name stays in Jamaica. It can be problematic, however, when that person encounters a US Customs officer just looking for a reason, any reason, to refuse Jamaicans entry to the US.

“So, young lady, you say your name is Ortanique Jackson. You sure about that?”

But can you really fault the officer for thinking that if your name is “made up” that maybe you’ve made-up other things? Maybe its not just your name, maybe your passport and visa are “made-up” too? I’m not saying its right. I’m just saying I understand.

Now if you go by any of the names mentioned above, there’s no need to take offence. As I said, I’m not saying your name is ugly, I’m just speculating as to how your unique name was come by. And if you really have a beef, take it up with the real culprits… your parents!