29 February 2012

Double Barrelled Surnames

I came back ‘fully’ to the country recently after a few months hiatus. I noticed that Channels Television is still churning out the same long and boring news, AIT is absolutely useless and NN24 had been off air for months, so no serious local television to serve 150 million people, hey. Those who can afford it subscribe to cable television from South Africa that dish out recycled programmes from England and the United States at a monthly fee that will cause public outrage in those countries. Given that we don’t have that much option in Nigeria, we faithfully comply with this outrageous monthly subscription, if only to be delivered from the clutches of our below par local TV stations. Only last week, NN24 had a moving text on its screen which read:
“Bayelsa State Former Governor Timipre Sylva arrested by the EFCC for money ‘laundring.’
This week, Channels TV made it money ‘laundry’ for Ibori, another former Governor who is being tried in London. Given that our local TV stations are unable to correctly spell ‘money laundering, you can perfectly understand our problem with communication, and why many opt for overseas television subscription.
Enough said. I will like to share one of the things that I have come to notice recently in Nigeria. This is of no threat to national security, just an interesting trend noticeable for its quaintness. I refer to the increasing number of double barrelled names popularised by newly married young women who adopt both their husbands’ first and last names as their surname. So you often come across names like Mrs Nike Segun-Adeyemo or Mrs Ngozi John-Chukwuma. In the last two weeks, I have come across seven women - all newly minted wives - with double-barrelled names. I can only imagine how proud their respective husbands would be, being so wholeheartedly adopted.
The multiple surname was once a preserve of European aristocracy with some surnames running into triple and quadruple barrelled. An example was the British special envoy to Moscow in 1939, Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurley Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, whose quadruple barrelled surname must have been a mouthful for his hosts. In recent times however, double barrelled names have been in decline in Europe, particularly in England, mostly because they are seen as a burden in a world where snobbery and anything associated with it is no longer in. As a result, some have dropped their inherited multiple surnames including CNN anchor Piers Morgan (Piers Pughe-Morgan) and the British explorer Sir Ralph Fiennes (Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes).
Focusing back on Nigeria, double barrelled surnames may not be an entirely new thing; prominent Nigerians who adopted the practice in the past include the Fani-Kayodes, the Olateru-Olagbegis and the Odumegwu Ojukwus who undoubtedly were influenced by the British colonial rulers pre-independence.
For those newly adopting the double barrelled names, the questions on my mind are:
  • Is the decision to go double barrelled made by the respective wives or their husbands?
  • If the decision for the wife to adopt her husband’s first and last names as her surname made by the husbands; What is the reasoning behind it?
  • What if a woman should ask her husband that they adopt both their respective last names as their married surname?
I may be wrong, but I suspect that the decisions are made by the women. Perhaps it gives a woman the opportunity to claim full ownership of her man. PostcardfromLagos
PS - Just for the record, my children have double barrelled middle names.