“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
William Shakespeare used this line in his play, Romeo and Juliet, to convey that people’s names are meaningless.
In the play, Juliet, a Capulet is not allowed to associate with Romeo because he is a Montague. If he had any other surname it would be fine.
Juliet is complaining that Romeo’s surname, Montague is irrelevant. After all, if the rose had any other name it would still be the same, it would still have the same rosy smell. So with Romeo; he would still be the same handsome young man even if he had a different name.
The Yorùbá however disagree with Shakespeare’s notion.
In Yorùbáland, names reflect people’s worldview, as a result, names are used to accentuate and situate the significance of an experience, an event, or a phenomenon at the time of birth.
Yorùbá names tell the world succinctly the circumstances surrounding a person’s birth. The Yorùbá name, Ọláníyọnu is a peculiar name. It literally means “wealth entails troubles”! There is a Yorùbá proverb that elucidates the meaning of Ọláníyọnu and it goes: “Ẹni tí kò rí ọlá rí, tí ó s’ọmọ ẹ̀ ní Ọláníyọnu“! That is, “someone who has never experienced wealth names his child ‘Wealth entails troubles’ “.
Another Yorùbá proverb goes: “Orúkọ nií ro ọmọ” – a child is influenced by his or her name.
Using the last proverb, we can therefore untangle the logic embedded in Ọláníyọnu.
It is a reminder to the bearer of the name that not all that glitters is gold and that life is not always rosy for a wealthy person.
By the same token, the name Ọláníyọnu also has an ethical underpinning. It suggests disapproval of pride and reckless display of wealth.
If a bearer of Ọláníyọnu takes cognizance of the meaning of his name, there is an expectation that the name would influence the bearer’s worldview, action, thoughts, and decisions. If not, the Yorùbá would say that his name has not imparted his life, considering “orúkọ nií ro ọmọ“.