The Name Game

On Sunday my friend, Lorenz, and I hopped on a bus for the one hour ride east from Addis to the small town of Debre Zeit. The name means Mount of Olives – – no olives here, but like many places in Ethiopia, this is a biblical name. What the town lacked in olives though, it made up for in lakes. And most were strikingly scenic crater lakes, filling a string of extinct volcano craters, all lying in or near the town. We spent most of the day hiking from lake to lake, four in all; chatting with the locals, eating a brown bag lunch on the rim of one crater, and fending off the persistent horse cart taxi drivers – – we wanted to walk. All in all, a sort of low key day with plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. A prescription, I believe, for a healthy and happy life.

A good name can contribute to a happy life as well and the Ethiopians have some great names. As I wrote in one of my early blog entries, a few are recognizable biblical names, say, Samson. Some cannot be immediately recognized, but can be translated into an English name. Dawit = David, for example. But the fun part about names here is that while many can be translated into English, they are not names that we would ever use. Let’s visit a few.

I will spare you the Amharic version, but from the English translation you will see that these are quite different than the names we have in America. It seems that Ethiopian parents give names to describe their new born or to register hope about some desired trait.

“Loving” – – A sweet thought.

“It Is Clear” – – For a particularly light skinned baby.

“Quiet” – – Perhaps wishful thinking by the parents of a new born.

“Flower” – – We have Rose and Daisy, but no generic flower as far as I know.

“Border” – – No idea what this might relate to. Incomprehensible connotation.

“God Allows Me” – – Exactly what God allows him to do is unstated.

“Response” – – I am not aware of an equivalent name in English. Sounds too much like “Responsible,” which of course would not describe any children I know. My kids excepted, naturally.

“Gold” – – We do have Goldie Hawn, but generally we don’t name kids after precious metals. Although in college I once dated a platinum blonde.

“Always World” – – You may remember our equivalent, former NBA player, World B. Free. I’ve always thought that was a cool name…even wanted to name my son World B. Free, but unfortunately his last name is Nichols. Rocks are one of the thrills of motoring on Ethiopia’s roads. In a land of poor people and hence, unaffordable maintenance, cars breakdown on the highway…and not infrequently. I doubt that a reflective warning triangle exists in the country. And even if it did, the typical dented and jammed car trunk would not yield it in a time of need anyway. Consequently, the driver of a breakdown will protect himself while supine beneath his vehicle by placing two or three large rocks on the roadway behind his disabled auto. We are talking big bowling ball-like objects. Once he gets his car running again, he will be so excited at his success, that more often than not, he will hop behind the wheel and take off, leaving the spherical, non-reflective warning signs on the road.

Now imagine yourself in a car (as I have been) flying down the highway at night, 60 mph. All of a sudden there they are. Rocks in the dark are usually spotted when it is much too late to swerve. So, if don’t avoid them, you will likely be laying out your own set of rocks while you change tires. You will leave your rocks behind as well. And so it goes.

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