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A rose by any other name?

With most people, I find that if I say it often enough, they will eventually get it right.

My first name, Siphokazi means the biggest gift.

Having such a long name is funny.

I’ve had people call me Sipho, Nozipho, Sipholozi, Siphakazi and the list goes on.

With most people, I find that if I say it often enough, they will eventually get it right.

With others, I break it up into two parts; first the Sipho then the kazi but that just confuses them.

Then there are those who add a g … so my name sounds like Siphogazi.

For English speaking people, the ph in my name is also a problem, as phonetically, the ph is pronounced with an f- sound, so my name sounds like Sifokazi.

That changes the meaning of my name entirely.

There’s also that special group of people who give me a new name altogether.

If they are speaking to me over the phone, I just quietly laugh and ask who are they looking for?

It’s certainly not me. I’ve been told I was given the name firstly because I arrived unexpectedly and secondly because it is considered a blessing to have a girl child.

Growing up, knowing what my names mean and why I was given them had a powerful influence on me.

I felt loved and treasured.

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It also showed a system of how a person in my culture is given a name.

The circumstances of my birth played a huge role in the name I was given.

I have a great-great-grandmother who was born during a drought and famine.

The name given to her was Ntombiyendlala, which means the daughter of hunger.

Although I do not think that was what her parents intended for her when they gave her that name, she starved her whole life and was poor.

As a journalist, I am very aware of the name I give to things.

It can alter the perception that people have of the subject that I am writing about.

Being in that position of power as a journalist, it means that I have the ability to influence whether people see that subject in a positive or negative light.

For example, Unmesh Kher, a journalist who works for a famous international publication tells us that when the HIV/Aids pandemic first came about, it was known as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, or GRID.

That misled people into thinking that it was a disease that exclusively affected gay people.

As we know, that is not the case.

The media played a huge role in perpetuating that stereotype and therefore unwittingly accelerate the spread of the disease.

As someone who meets people every day, I take great care in trying to call things by their correct name.

Not only is it proper, but it’s the right thing to do.

While we’re on the topic of names, I hate how certain words have been hijacked to mean one thing.

The word gay for example.

People hear gay and they think about same-sex couples.

You can’t even say “We had a gay time,” anymore because of what people will think.

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