Yoruba names that make it hard to live abroad

Camping was fun…but short. You see, like last year, we were supposed to arrive at our camp site on Friday afternoon and return home on Sunday afternoon. However, a couple of factors affected our plans:

  • one of my friends (oyinbo guy sha) was fighting with his possessive girlfriend and she basically did everything she could to make his time away from her a living hell (never mind the fact that she was invited and she declined because the camping wasn’t far enough into the bush for her) so he wanted to get back home to her as soon as possible
  • one of my friends is very afraid of storms, especially thunder and lightning, and there was plenty of that

When you combine these facts with the fact that after we arrived at our camp site on Friday, assembled our tents and cooked our meals, it started raining like it would never stop, complete with a lot of thunder and lightning, you could tell that at least two of the campers were ready to go home on Saturday. Anyways sha, we slept through the storm on Friday night, and all was well.

Saturday dawned and looked like it would be ok. We had only spent about an hour and a half at the beach before it started to storm again…so we went back to the camp site, soaked to the skin, and in a very uncharacteristic behaviour I decided to go along with the majority and I didn’t complain about having to leave early. We were back home 24 hours after we left.

So for the record, I loooove camping, love cooking on the fire and on the camp stove. I don’t mind sleeping on the ground (my friends sha know how to pamper themselves and have air mattresses; me and my sister, we just sleep in the sleeping bag), and I don’t mind having to let my hair air dry. I’ve camped at sites without running water or flushing toilets nearby, but I won’t deny that I prefer those conveniences, thank you very much.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. One of the “risks” (if you want to call it that) that you take when you move to a new country is that your name may have another meaning in the society or new culture that you enter. I can only think of four such names but I’m hoping you can add more.

In alphabetical order:

This name, which means “crown” in Yoruba (if I’m not mistaken) and is also a common prefix in other parts of Nigeria, is often mispronounced as “aid” or “-ade” as in lemonade. A family friend who goes by this name said that when he first came to Canada in the 1970s, by the 80s when AIDS was getting more media attention, it was not a desirable name to have and to have mispronounced. He said at first, he didn’t care how his name was pronounced, even when he corrected the mispronouncer, but after all this wahala of having his name pronounced to sound exactly like the disease, he started ignoring people unless they pronounced his name correctly (after he would tell them the correct way to say his name o!).

There is no doubt that the Yoruba name Bimbo is one of the hardest to deal with, especially in North America. As you all know, a bimbo is an unflattering term for a woman who is unintelligent, an airhead. Since both guys and girls in Nigeria have names that contain Bimbo in it, with Bimbo being the common short form, you can imagine how hard it is to deal with this name. I would bet that this name is mispronounced by North Americans 100% of the time.

This certainly not the worst one out there, but this could be mispronounced to almost sound like “bozo” (think “bose” to rhyme with “hose”), another unflattering word that refers to someone who is an oaf and/or stupid.

This is my grandmother’s name, so it pains me to include this on the list but it’s clear that this name will be forever mispronounced by non-Nigerians as “dupe” (pronounced ‘doop’), meaning to trick (someone). It’s bad enough trying to get your average North American to master the pronunciation of the “p” sound in Yoruba, talk less trying to get them to see Dupe as anything but “doop”

Bonus: Bola
I just thought of this one: I can just imagine an oyinbo person say “Oh, Bola, that’s a pretty name, sounds sort of like Ebola, right?” Not exactly the sort of thing you want people to associate with your name!

Your turn: What are some horrible (but expected) mispronunciations of Nigerian names that you’re aware of?

30 thoughts on “Yoruba names that make it hard to live abroad

  1. hmmm… as far as the names… if you say so I guess….

    the only one Im really aware of is "bimbo"…

    so you love camping… good for you… for me… I dont think so… glamping on the other hand… I can totally do and plan on doing it sometime w/my hubby in the future! :-)

  2. at least u got to go somewhere this summer. I've just been doing a lot of "planning" but nothing has happened yet.

    Abt the names, the one I could think of is names with "Mide" like Olumide, Aramide. PPle pronounce the Mide as mild and what's worse is that our pple actually encourage it.

    ***I want cash for leaving comments o!! I don't think one can have too much of it ;).

  3. My friend is Ibilola and gets called Ibola all day long…lmao..It actually amuses me seeing her getting all puffed up with anger, amuses me so much I now call her Ibiola as well…Thx God for English names…We all have English names in my family, its hard enough getting a job as an African without the name that points you out….

  4. Ohh goodness…This is just wrong…I can't think of any off the top of my head…People just tend to fold up when they see my name written out… But I like the guy who ignored people until his name was pronounced properly…I'm over here being called sweetheart, honey and ma'am because some of the guys don't even want to try.

  5. Kunle- KoolAID

    Mofope- MOfo as in Motherf……I'll look for more…

    Wow, i'd love to do them camping sturvs, but as soon as i find an outdoorsy partner in crime, i'll jump on the offer.

  6. add "Ope" to the mix, or any nam that has a P

    "funke" pronounced as "funky"

    if I was a "Bimbo", I would insist that people call me "Abimbola" or "bola"

  7. Hi gng, I like your blog! Keep up the good work :) When I first heard the name Abimbola, it definitely reminded me of Ebola…

  8. very funny. Bola= Ebola

    i think it's all names foreign to people that gets mispronounced. How would the Americans pronounced the Ibo name Chike? then u forgot the yoruba name Dare.

    some non Isoko people call my younger brother 'woman' because his name is Womano.

    • Lol, funny enough, my full name(Abimbola) is not on my certificate, It is 'bimbo' that is on it. I'm scared of using that name outside Nigeria, I would prefer to use my second name than using 'bimbo' for the purpose of studies abroad.

  9. lol! dat one okrika girl…BULIMIA!!!ROTFL!!!!i used my english name here in the states for a while but after i got sick of it ..it wasnt me!!!it just wasnt me…so i now go by my yoruba name…i dont funkilise it for anybody!!!i correct pple sometimes not all d time!!

  10. @pink-satin

    Up till today o, every time i see her ts Bulimia. When i became a citzen i switched up my first name (native name) with my middle name, which is english because i really couldn't take the weird looks or mispronunciations anymore, at my graduation the guy announcing the names spent 2minutes butchering my native name when he finished that he butchered my last name too I think that was the last straw.

  11. I am Bola, and I have never had anyone say, Ebola before. All I get is, oh your name is so cute, its so unique. Or I get, do you know Bola means Bowl in Spanish. For the record, Bola means a lot of things in different languages, I have come to find out. I think it means Ball in Russia or something.

    Bimbo is the hardest one. I just tell my friends to change it to Bims. No matter how hard you try to explain to North Americans, Bimbo is just weird to them.

  12. hahahaha!!!!! yes those names could cause a problem. But I know of an Nkechi who insists on being called 'nikichi' and someone with the last name Onike that has been called o'nike (as in the sports company….)


  13. Thanks everyone; a lot of you thought of names I didn't even think of.

    About the name Bola, I meant to say that the Ebola thing would come up when it's being read, not when you pronounce it to someone. So, for example, someone would say "Oh! It rhymes with Ebola!"

    – – –

    @Diamond Hawk – Glamping? Do tell…

    @Oluwadee – Nike is a great example!

    And yes, we did get to go camping so it's not that bad. We will book the camp site for next year sha…maybe the weather will be cooperative.

    @Iwalewa – Oh, I hope you manage to do something before the summer runs out! You don't have much time left o!

    Oh, Mide is a good example, one I didn't think of.

    And your check is in the mail…I hope you have received it by now? ;)

    @Afrobabe – Oh wow! Ibiola more than Bola would be a tough name to deal with from a pronunciation point of view. Andlook at you laughing at her!

    Is your last name English sounding though? :)

    @archiwiz – for me not trying is even worse. They call me "J" at work…I always ask my Oga if he knows my actual name!

    @Jaycee – silly me! I actually meant that Bola looks like ebola!

    I sure did have fun camping though, thanks.

    @AlooFar – Yes o! I had fun.

    @Femi B – Oh, those are two good ones.

    Hey, come camping in Canada and we can kick it, outdoorsy style. :)

    @bumight – Ope! and yes o…our P sounds scare our non-Nigerian friends. Funke is a great example too.

    @Mrs. O – Really? Oya tell me what city you live in so we can confirm!

    @dat1orikagirl – Oh my dear Orika chicka…you don suffer o!

    @Shimmy Shimmy – Thanks for the compliment!

    @uzezi – Wow, two more for the list…two great examples too.

    The name Womano is new to me too, but how can people omit the o at the end of the name?

    @Onada – Sorry, what I meant is it looks like ebola, so people reading would think that it probably rhymes with it.

    @pink-satin – yeah, why ask for trouble abi?

    @minexclusively – again, it was my fault for not explaining what I meant correctly. I didn't meant hat people would hear "Bola" and think ebola, I meant if they saw the name written, and didn't know how to say it, it is likely they'd pronounce it to rhyme with ebola

    @solomonsydelle – the things we do avoid frustrations eh?

  14. Ah, i have this friend i've known for like 5yrs now, and to me her name is Bimbo, but since we left the country, she if i mistakenly say Bimbo ehn, if u see d bad eye she will use to reply "Bimbola u mean!"

  15. How about the name Joke. I always have to tell people it's not a joke but pronounced JO-KE. 1st day of class is always the most frustrating!

  16. My cousin's name is Bola… ppl always ask her "like baller, shot calla" all the time, like it's cute or like they're the first ones to ever think of it.

  17. lol. Bola= ebola.

    My friend bimbo makes people call her abimbola. lol

    Anoter one is Titi, my friend in high school was called titis= slang for breast. It didn't help that she had big boobs…. lol

  18. You got me cracking.
    ITUNU is being pronounced as HIGH/ eye tu nu. I explain its not Eye its eeeeeeeee, but they seems too dumb to learn other peoples culture. I just go by I.T instaead.

  19. How about Titi? A good friend of mine is always embarrased when oyinbo guys pronounce her name as "titty" and say "you mean your mom gave you that name??? "

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