I was already rounding off work (not ‘rounding up’) on the topic I initially wanted to discuss this week when a visual artist and friend, Mufu Onifade, brought up the issue of ‘My names are …’ on Facebook. Like many other people, he finds the expression nauseating and thus wondered why some people feel comfortable using it.
Despite the fact that it has been established several times that ‘My names are…’ is grammatically wrong, a lot of people still flaunt it the way Davido and many other stars flaunt their super cars.
At different events, I have heard many people say it, usually with exaggerated confidence, when they wanted to introduce themselves. To them, it is better to say ‘My names are…’ than ‘My name is …’ because they have more than ‘a name’. They notionally take into account their first name, surname, middle name and every other one they might have amassed.
Truly, many Africans cherish having a wealth of names. I am at least sure of what obtains in Yoruba culture where, apart from the name(s) that one’s parents give, the grandparents and other relatives can bless the child with other appellations
Some capturing the circumstances of one’s birth, some appealing to one’s heritage, some denoting prayers while some simply pet names. Whichever nationality or tribe is involved, the fact remains that it is extremely rare for people to have and bear just the first name or surname.
Well, the Nigerian cultural/literary community will quickly remind me that there is the legendary Chinweizu, a cultural activist and author of books that include ‘The West and the Rest of Us’, ‘Decolonising the African Mind’, ‘Anatomy of Female Power’ as well as ‘Energy Crisis and other Poems’.
Interestingly, there was also another younger writer who projected only one name – Ebereonwu. The author of some literary works and producer of ‘Piccadilly’ and some other movies, unfortunately, died in an auto accident in 2007.
For one reason or the other, Chinweizu and Ebereonwu chose to bear just one appellation. What is most important, however, is that no matter how many items are in the collection of one’s name, the correct thing to say is ‘My name is…’, not ‘My names are…’:
My names are John AdeolaAjagbe. (Wrong)
My name is John AdeolaAjagbe. (Correct)
My names are Umar Yakubu Danladi Abdulahmed. (Wrong)
My name is Umar Yakubu Danladi Abduahmed. (Correct)
My names are Sir Chukwu Sam Emeka Nwokodi. (Wrong)
My name is Sir Chukwu Sam Emeka Nwokodi. (Correct)
There are facts you need to consider towards understanding that you neither pluralise ‘name’ in the context under consideration nor do you use ‘are’ instead of ‘is’. First, no matter how long the first name, middle name or surname is, it is still a name and ‘is’ is the right verb for it – even if it is as long as comedian Ali Baba’s Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere.
Your name is your identity or who you are. Know, however, that criminals have names. They are one name somewhere and another name somewhere else.
Also, no matter how many items you combine in the compound name, you still treat it as a singular subject. This applies to the three examples given above. Of course, you must realise that pluralising your name is not a status symbol because many of those guilty of the error seem to portray it as such. If anything, it is a status error.
Experts have somehow reluctantly conceded that there may be one or two occasions the plural structure can be accepted. An instance is if a person parades a real name and an unconventional, a fake or an assumed name like a pseudonym. For instance, if an armed robber with a real name (Ken Waziri) bears a coded name (Bobby Scorpion) among his or her colleagues, when caught, he can combine the real name and the coded one with ‘are’:
My names are Ken Waziri Bobby Scorpion. (Wrong)
My name is Ken Waziri aka Bobby Scorpion. (Correct)
My names are Ken Waziri and Bobby Scorpion. (Correct)
You would observe that the last example has a semblance of plurality; but then you should note the use of ‘and’ in the structure. It is not like the first example without the conjunction.
On a more positive note, remember that there are some writers who write under pen names or pseudonyms. Imagine if they have cause to reveal their dual identity. The rare plurality may apply:
My names are Femi Osofisan and Okinba Launko. (Correct, very correct.)
Hope you know that the renowned dramatist, Prof. Femi Osofisan, has also published several works with the pseudonym, Okinba Launko. Yet compare this example to wrong ones such as
My names are Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka. (Wrong)
My name is Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka. (Correct)
My names are Albert Chinalmg Achebe (Wrong)
My name is Albert Chinalmg Achebe (Correct)
My names are Babafemi AdeyemiOsofisan OkinbaLaunko. (Wrong)
My name is Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan aka Okinba Launko. (Correct)
My names are Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan and Okinba Launko. (Correct)
I must tell you that you have to pay a price for the ‘revelation’ I just made in terms of the full names of Profs. Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Or you didn’t get that in the last series of the examples I gave? The price is a bag of rice, a gourd of groundnut oil and a cock as fat as a lawmaker’s salary. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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