Sunday 10 May 2020

Ermelinda Makkimane, Prose 500 2020, Longlist

What's In A Name?

A girl was born to Renato Bernardo Guadalupe Fernandes and Serolina Theresa Coutinhoe Fernandes.
That was me. I was christened Ermelinda after my paternal grandmother, as
was the norm in those days. My mother, who had irreverently named at least
four babies (on her side of the family) before this, had to remain content with this not-so-mouthful of a name
(considering my parents' names), bowing to her husband and my father's wishes. She had
her own way, as all wives do, of course, and at home, I was always called Linda, even by my
father. So thus began my life's journey with this name.

There's a cassette recording of my mother teaching me "Myself" and rhymes and numbers.
And excellent subvert that she is, she teaches me, on tape, "My name is Linda Fernandes".
And I, all of two, and full of myself, contradict her and correct her saying, "You should not
say, 'My name is Linda Fernandes,' you should say, 'My name is Ermelinda Fernandes'."
That's how sharp I was. I say 'was' because, sadly, three years later, at school, when the
barrage of mispronunciations hit me, I buckled and how.

My name has been the bane of my entire school life... Teachers habitually mispronounced it.
Students only followed suit. Some nuns actually called me Esmeralda. Some Spanish
fantasy of theirs, I guess. After some time I also accepted the much
so that I played along, agreeing with them that the 'r' in my name was silent, and meekly
submitting to be called, 'Emlinda' or 'Emelinda'.

This name miscalling hit the zenith when our Biology teacher who loved me to bits (for what I
never figured out), in Class 9A, while explaining Animal Kingdom and its Classification,
suddenly decided to mention me lovingly alongside the Porifera and Arthropoda and
Annelida... and uttered my name thus : Emelindina...

That was my "Earth, swallow me now" moment... I remember the class going pindrop and
then, as genteel as a girls' school would have it, the girls burst into a roar of laughter! I went
pink or red... who knows... But I was mortified! The teacher must have sensed something
was wrong because she hurried on with the lesson.

As for my name, it became bearable slowly and surely as the years went by.... By the time I
was attending my post graduation classes, many teachers called me by my full name,
Ermelinda, (though a few did prefer Linda) and still do. They were the ones to instill belief in
me vis-à-vis my name. One of them said to me when I requested her to call me "Linda",
"Why? You have a beautiful name. You should be called by it." This was difficult to digest
then but it was, in the long run, truly liberating.
I wish I had been assertive as a kid but I am now. My name is Ermelinda Makkimane now
and my surname has a different story attached!


  1. Haha. Linda. Must have been agonising filling forms where they ask u to fill ur name in capital letters. And the amount of time u spent...

  2. Hmmm a truly touching anthology...I experienced it first hand....