I’ve just returned back from a lovely trip up North. My heart is full after conversations in broken Acholi, successful negotiations and work meetings, and time spent in a place I called home for such an important and meaningful time in my life. Many of my friends there say “welcome home” when I return. I’ve been ruminating over the feelings and meanings of friendship, family, relationships, camaraderie, and “home” as I continue to grow and love in a country that specializes in hospitality, warmth, and friendliness.
What’s in a name?
Many Ugandans have difficulty with my name, and the most common (mostly correct) pronunciation is “Lor-EN,” with massive emphasis on that EN sound.
Today I explained the meaning of the phrase “pet name” to a friend. I love when you get nicknamed by someone or start having inside jokes — it’s that internal warm fuzzy of knowing you’re getting close to a new friend.
In the US we don’t typically name our children for symbolism or meaning’s sake — sometimes, but often just because it was a family name. My first name was chosen by my parents because they liked the sound of it and loved Lauren Bacall.
Nominative determinism is a concept coined originally by Carl Jung, but I recently read about it in Adam Alter’s Drunk Tank Pink. It basically means that names — the meaning, pronunciation, alphabetical order, etc — can determine outcomes in our lives and “destinies.” Even if we’re not fully aware of it happening.
It’s an interesting thought to apply to not only my given name but also names I’ve carried or been penned with throughout my life. You don’t create your own nicknames, do you? They’re an organic occurrence over time and experiences that “just happens.”
While living in Gulu, I was dubbed “Laker” (pronounced Luh-kay) in Acholi, which means princess or royalty. Another favorite is “Layela,” (Ly-el-uh) an adjective meaning stubborn. The Ugandan definition and application of the word stubborn is strong, independent, determined, strong-willed. “Stubborn ladies” is often heard in reference to Ugandan women who hold their own.
Lauren is of Latin origin (perhaps influencing my interest in Latin language and Roman history?), with some Irish roots as well. It means “crowned with Laurel leaves.” Laurel leaves symbolized victory and wisdom in ancient times. Lauren is thought to be the English version of the Irish “Lorcan.” Lorcan means “fierce.”
Stubborn, victorious, fierce, wise princess. Seems to be pretty fitting… I’m sure if you know me, you can attest to the “stubborn princess” bit.
There are many more monikers I could recount, but these tickle my fancy for alliteration, so I’ll stop here.
Sending my love from rainy Jinja,