obnoxious Baby names ?


I know I’m not the first one to write about it, and I know a lot of black folk stand on either side of the issue, but I don’t really care about them right now….lol.

Someone told me about an article they read on a girl (presumably black) in the states who sued to have her name changed. The thing was, this person referred to those names as “Obnoxious” names. Immediately my Wendy Wellesley (well some of ya’ll know what I am talking about)— I am offended-dar went up. I don’t see how someone named Pakaneesa, or Dayshawnda is obnoxious. It’s different, you might even call it ghetto, but not obnoxious— not Clitorisa or something like that (yes, that is someone’s name, well it teeters– but I digress)

Of course the subject of the conversation was what I at least have it commonly referred to as Ghetto names. funnily enough, I read a post on it at stuffblackpeoplehate (p.s. his stuff is quite sharp,  fyi… you may be offended).

At any rate, this topic is close to my heart because like so many girls i have already picked out my baby names, and one of them could be interpreted as an obnoxious/ghetto name.

my first daughter is going to be named NaN’mah and pronounced Naa’ma or Nayeema, I haven’t decided yet). Yes my baby name is chocked full of true meanings and has its roots in actual culture. I explain below:

N’Mah (nnn-ma… that’t the best I can describe it) is a name that means mother and is not uncommon among certain tribes in Sierra Leone/Guinea.
It’s highly unlikely that I will marry a Sierra Leonean , so I want my kiddies infused with thier momma’s culture from the jump. It’s bad enough they will 2nd generation Diaspora…lol

adding Na to N’Mah gives it a meaning in Krio, the patua/lengua Franc of Sierra Leone. Na N’Mah, is a phrase which doesn’t really mean anything amazing, but I like it none the less. It just means “It’s mother” or It’s N’Mah.

finally my spelling or pronunciation also makes a word in Arabic- Na’ma which means blessing.


I have an “African/ethnic” name and it has a meaning, but thankfully it doesn’t have too much of the spelling/pronounciation issues that some other African kids have. In fact, when people see it, they can’t tell what I am. And I like it that way.

It’s hard to discriminate when you can’t figure out whether I am black, Middle Eastern, Indian, African, etc. When I was little I wanted to change my name to Tammi, don’t ask why, we all have our phases. But I love it, love it, love it now and wouldn’t change it for nothing.

but I don’t want my baby having to explain the “etymology” of her name to people all the time. I remember meeting a girl in one fo my classes at a bus stop and we got to chatting and exchanged names and I feel a bit shamed of it now, but I think I jolted a little when she told me hers was Shakwanda ( I had never met anyone with that name before and it’s always up there on the list of default examples that people give of ghetto names… doesn’t excuse it, i know). To make matters worse, we actually had a lecture in class later in the semester that some how ended with everyone laughing at the “ridiculousness” of such names (well actually a rather comical outburst of another classmate) and all the while Shakwanda was annoyed I don’t blame her. She’s extremely bright, and doing her thing educationally and otherwise, what’s in a name?

I don’t want my kid to have to go through that. maybe NaN’Mah will have to be her pet name, Gogol in that Mira Nair movie which I can’t seem to remember the name of …lol.


4 thoughts on “obnoxious Baby names ?

  1. Gogol was first in Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, The Namesake, which I read before I saw the movie. I like the book and the movie for different reasons…both are good.

    My mother’s default ghetto names to use were Tanesha (I have a step-cousin [yes, step-cousin] named Tanesha) and Shaniqua. Then, yes, I met a Shaniqua, and it was awkward.

    In general, I am not in the practice of poking fun at such names. In the end, people think that Chinyere is one of those names as they ask me, bemusedly, what it means. There are also a lot of people who opine that all African names are made up, from the way they regard my name even after I tell them where it comes from.

    So whatever on people thinking stuff about one’s name!

    I actually vacillate on the names of my kids…it changes with the seasons of my life. When I was a teenager, I favored various American names. For a girl, Lydia was one of my favorites. In college, I started getting more creative…Juna was one of my favorites. Then I went through my inevitable “Muslim name” phase, several which I still like…I still imagine naming my first daughter Hasna from time to time. And then, with the advent of the Nigerian ex and thereafter, I want to name my children Igbo names…so far, that is representative only by Chinyere Jr. More name choosing will happen at a later date, hehe.

    There are some names that are unfortunate and I think benevolent OB/GYNs/fam physicians/midwives should let mom know as she chooses the name that maybe she’ll want something else. Like, there is a woman named Vagina. No joke. It’s pronounced va-GEEN-a, but still! Bad bad bad…she hasn’t changed her name and has grown up defending herself against the inevitable.

    I believe that difficult names build character, but come on…

    Anyway, long comment, sorry. It’s been a while! Wanted to drop by and say hi! 🙂


    • gazelledusahara

      Welcome back! It’s sad that people have so many assumptions made about them just because of their names.

      and Yes, African children get caught in the crossfires… When I was job hunting I tried to let it slip somehow that my family is from Sierra Leone, lest people otherwise think that I am one of those “Kwanza celebrating African-Americans.”

      sigh. This is the world we live in.

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