What’s in a Name in Ethiopia?

the world in words


This is guest post from Africa-based Big Show reporter, Anders Kelto:

In Ethiopia, people have long used something called “house names.” They’re nicknames that family members give to one another. Traditionally, they have symbolic meanings. But the nature of those names is changing.

Kalkidan Hailemariam, a 19-year-old broadcast journalism student at the University of Addis Ababa, says her parents started calling her by her house name, Mitu, when she was about one year old.

Kalkidan Hailemariam aka Mitu Kalkidan Hailemariam aka Mitu “I didn’t know the meaning. Even my parents didn’t know what it means,” Kalkidan says.

“I really like [my house name]. When someone calls me Kalkidan, I don’t even turn my face,” she says.

Zelealem Leyew, a professor of linguistics at the University of Addis Ababa, says Mitu is a fairly typical house name for someone of Kalkidan’s age.

“We have these short and precise home names, like Tutu and Chuchu

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