Thoughts on names from Precious Ramotswe

You guys, this is one of those weeks! I’m feeling perpetually behind, and I have a whole bunch of things I want to post about, but they all require some concentrated time, and it’s just not happening. So today’s post is quick and easy — a snippet I read the other night. Are any of you familiar with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith? I love these books. They remind me of how I see this blog — a sweet escape from everything that weighs us down. Anyway, quick background: the stories are set in Botswana, and Precious Ramotswe runs a detective agency with the help of her friend Grace Makutsi (aka Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi); the agency shares space with Precious’ husband’s mechanic shop (his name is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni).

Mma Makutsi glanced through the half-open door that led from the agency into the garage. On the other side of the workshop, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni was showing his two apprentices an engine part. “You see those two boys out there?” she said. “Charlie and …”

“Fanwell,” supplied Mma Ramotswe. “We must start using his name. It is not kind to be forgetting it all the time.”

“Yes, Charlie and … Fanwell,” said Mma Makutsi. “It is a stupid name, though, don’t you think, Mma? Why would anybody be called Fanwell?” … 

It was wrong of Mma Makutsi, [Mma Ramotswe] thought, to poke fun at Fanwell’s name. “Why is anybody called anything, Mma Makutsi? That boy cannot help it. It is the parents who give children stupid names. It is the fault of the parents.

“But Fanwell, Mma Ramotswe? What a silly name. Why did they not call him Fanbelt? That would be a good name for an apprentice mechanic, wouldn’t it? Hah! Fanbelt. That would be very funny.”

“No, Mma Makutsi,” said Mma Ramotswe. “We must not make fun of people’s names. There are some who think that your own name, Grace, is a strange name. I do not think that, of course. But there are probably people like that.”

Mma Makutski was dismissive. “Then they are very foolish,” she said. “They should know better.”

“And that is what Fanwell himself would probably say about anybody who laughed at his name,” Mma Ramotswe pointed out.

Mma Makutsi had to agree with this, even if reluctantly. She and Mma Ramotswe were fortunate, with their reasonably straightforward names of Grace and Precious, respectively; she had contemporaries who were not so fortunate and had been saddled by their parents with names that were frankly ridiculous. One boy she had known at school had borne a Setswana name which meant Look out, the police have arrived. The poor boy had been the object of derision amongst his classmates and had tried, unsuccessfully, to change the name by which he was known. But names, like false allegations, stick, and he had gone through life with this unfortunate burden, reminded of it every time he had to give details for an official form; looking away so that the person examining the form could be given the opportunity to smile, which they all did.

“Even if their names are not their fault,” said Mma Makutsi, “the way those boys behave is their fault, Mma. There can be no doubt about that. And those boys are very lazy, Mma …”

Funny and wise! I hope you all have a great Thursday!

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on names from Precious Ramotswe

  1. Aww, I love that series too–and they TOTALLY fall into the same sweet escape category that your blog and baby names in general do for me. And the naming wisdom is a good reminder for such as me, often tempted to snarky thoughts. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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