Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent
A SEEMINGLY harmless misspelling of her name on the credits to her first film, 1991’s Flirting, forced star actress Thandie Newton to endure the agony of being called by a ‘wrong’ name for three decades.
Instead of Thandiwe, the makers of the film misspelled her name ‘Thandie’
Three decades later, Newton decided to take the bold step of ‘reclaiming her rightful name and set the record straight’.
In doing so, little did the actress, born to a Briton dad and a Zimbabwean mother – Nick and Nyasha – know that she had sparked a debate on the importance of knowing the meaning of one’s name.
What’s in a name, one might ask?
For Newton, knowing the true meaning of her name is something that can never be taken for granted. The name Thandie, for those with a good grasp of the IsiNdebele language is usually short for names such as Thandaza, Thandiwe, Thandeka or Thandekile.
In a recent interview with British Vogue, the actress revealed that the decision to revert to her ‘real’ name was inspired by her desire to claim back what is rightfully hers.
“That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine,” she told the magazine.
Newton said Thandiwe, meaning “beloved”, would be used in all her future projects and she would be credited with her name spelled correctly.
It might have taken 30 years for Newton to tell her fans that they have been calling her by an ‘incorrect’ name, but her story has inspired others to come out and explain the meaning of their names.
And the impact that their names have on their lives.
For one lady who goes by the Twitter username @TanyaFear, her name is a reminder of the loss that her family suffered when she was born.
“My full name is Tanyaradzwa – which means we have been comforted. I was named this because I was born the year my grandfather died,” she tweeted.
Although Tanyaradzwa did not specify whether she was named after the passing away of a maternal or paternal grandfather, her Tweeter bio suggests the family suffered the loss in 1990 – her birth year.
Back home in Zimbabwe, specifically the streets of Bulawayo, how well do people know the meaning of their names?
It’s often said that names have significance, that they have power, define us and they are more than a bunch of letters grouped together to sound pleasant to the ear.
For Thandolwenkosi Moyo – loosely translated ‘God’s love’, her name shaped the person she has become 35 years after the christening by her late parents.
“I don’t think being evil-hearted for a person named Thandolwenkosi really does justice to the meaning of the name. People expect me to be something of a saint because of the meaning of my name,” she told Saturday Leisure.
Moyo is the eldest of three kids and lost her parents when she was in her teens.
“My grandmother says my parents suffered a lot of difficulties in their marriage before I was born so maybe that’s why they named me Thandolwenkosi as a way of thanking God for walking with them through difficult times,” she said.
Quoting the Bible, Simelani Sibindi of Kensington suburb said: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22 verse 1)”.
“My wife and I are blessed with twin sons Matthew and Jacob and because we both come from strong Christian backgrounds, we decided to christen our boys with names derived from the Bible,” said Sibindi.
It’s a decision, he says both him and his wife are happy with.
As a man of faith, does he believe that names such as Nhamo or Nhlupheko – loosely translated to ‘poverty’ in Shona and IsiNdebele respectively have a bearing on a child later in their lives?
“I think it’s all in the mind, if one believes that their name attracts bad luck or it is the cause of their suffering, then they will experience just that. As children, we don’t decide our names, but we can decide our destiny,” he said.
Indigenous versus English names.
Parents sometimes fail to agree on the name of their child with one in preference of a name in an indigenous language and the other insisting on an English name.
Such scenarios usually result in a compromise position where a child is christened two names in English and an indigenous language. — @RaymondJaravaza