Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"I am Aunty Mary"

Are you in anyway familiar with the argument of "we need not westernize this or that, we need to know we are Africans". And with all the talk of ' not westernizing' this or that, I realise that a lot of us are comfortable with the idea of getting respect at all cost by having people add either "brother, sister, aunty, uncle, Mrs, Mr, Dr, Chief" to our names and failure to do so make those people disrespectful to us.

I am really wondering how we would be addressing ourselves if we really stick to our own very languages be it Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba to mention a few. Are will still going to find prefixes like "sister, brother...." to add to the names of people that are considered to be older than we are when we address them? Haven't "brother' sister, uncle, aunty' lose thier true meaning? A niece of mine whom I called "aunty Kemi" because she is older came to Nigeria for her wedding in 2001, she came with her white friends and one of them was confused and had to ask " Kemi, this is a huge family, are all these people your relatives?". Unfortunately, none of those people were related in anyway but the norm, that it was carried the day. 

I once asked a woman what her name was after I told her my first name, she replied by telling me that her name was "aunty Mary". Then again another woman, who told me her name was " Mama Funmi" What?! So here is the thing, we have, a long time ago thrown the real meaning of those nouns/appellations used as prefixes into the stream and we use them the way we deem fit as a mark of honour and respect for people that are older than us. But I still wonder in Nigeria with different ethnic groups, howelse could we have addressed those older than us if "brother or sister" isn't borrowed or misused? Could we have communicated without the discord of who is disrespecting who or without pointing out who is older than who because of a mere prefix?  

The issue of adding "aunty, uncle , brother, sister" to a name often course a big problem in western part of Nigeria because anyone that is a year or 2 older than you must have some sort of appellations added to their names and failure to do so means you are disrespectful. This is even extended to marriage whereby you can't call your husband by his first name but he can call you by yours! And if you dare {well not in my marriage} to do so infront of his relatives, you are ready to learn some lesssons. Seriously, is this what respect is all about? I think is the way you address people when you talk to them by not making your tone rude or your body language arrogant that matters but not by what you add infront of their names. It's so bad that some kids don't even know thier parents first names than the fact that they are just "daddy and mummy". Are we not exagerrating everything here? 

I nearly got into that madness of people adding "aunty" or "sister" to my name before, thank God for logic and objectivity, I don't think that is how I am respected. I am respected by respecting others. I am respected by knowing how to talk and how to compose myself. But seriously, does the norm of people add "aunty", "uncle", "Brother", "sister" or you forcing them to do so worth the hazzle? 
Good Nite Michael!


Anonymous said...

oh my gosh, I so feel you. I have a lot of people I dont particularly respect but that I put the anti or brother in front of their names and they are content. We are a culture obssessed with how things seem and not how they are. We want perfect wifey but not a good wife. She seems perfect but is she? Status is more important than respect in our culture and that is the tragedy.

Adaeze said...

I feel you!
If you respect another person is HOW you talk to them (tone) not the name you add...
I think a son having to call his father "Sir" is just cold, seriously.. wheres the relationship if you cant call your dad "daddy"`?

Sugabelly said...

Actually there ARE provisions in languages for this kind of thing.

For example, in Igbo, you call your older brother (and I think sister) Dede or Dede + Brother's name.

In Japanese for example, there are a large number of suffixes that you add to people's names based on your relationship with them.


Nneka CHAN - if Nneka is younger than you or really close to you

Nneka SAN - if Nneka is older than you

Nneka SAMA - if Nneka is MUCH MUCH higher than you (e.g. a minister)

and so on.

So, I do not believe that Nigerians' love of honorifics is limited to our use of English alone.

I am sure that there are appropriate ways to express all these respect and level issues in our various cultures.

Also in Igbo,

Nne = Mother (too formal)

Nneni = Mummy (far more informal and appropriate)

aloted said...

Hmmm...u have spoken some thought provoking words... can u address urself as "Aunty Mary" or Mama somebody. thats taking it too far

Awapointe said...

Very true. I think it will be a good idea to research where the prefix idea came from. Won't it?

bumight said...

seriously, we are concerned with the way things look. we will dress up a rotten house with paint and all even if the foundation is crumbling.
you really dont have to add "aunty" to someone's name to show respect, and also the culture accomodates adults demanding respect while denying the younger ones.

Respect is reciprocal!

the one that gets to me is not calling ur husband by his name. someone that u called by name when he was toasting u, all of a sudden u cant just because he gave u a ring?
i once had an elderly respected female in my church ask me not to call my bf by his name and sth about my tone when talking to him. as far as im concerned, if ure not rude, it just removes all feelings of familiarity and any warmth in the relationship!

Tigeress said...

ST I am SOOOOOOO with u on this post. I asked someone for her name and she told me Mummy so-so. And i said, i'm not asking whose mother she is- she then told me her name. Some chick told me her name is was Mrs......

Rebirth said...

u spoke my mind.... got pissed at some lady the other day who insisted i add aunty to her name cuz she's 2 yrs older than me! geez!!! of what value is the aunty if i act so rude and talk without respect! our culture can be funny sometimes

The Activist said...

I do appreciate all of your perceptions and contribution to this post. I so much want to repsond individaully but deadline is killing me. Do forgive me....

The Activist said...

I do appreciate all of your perceptions and contribution to this post. I so much want to repsond individaully but deadline is killing me. Do forgive me....

My Passion, my focus, the change that I want to see in the world - is my propellent factor.

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