Rafed English

Childhood Nickname can Stunt Personality

A girl

confided to her friend that a proposal for her marriage had 'been received by her parents and that she was yet to be consulted before a decision was made. After congratulating her for the matrimonial prospects, the friend inquired the name of the suitor and then burst into a hilarious laughter when it was given to her much to the embarrassment of the girl.

The boy appeared to be popularly known by a funny nickname which was attached to his name.

There was nothing that the boy could do about it. It stuck firmly as if it was stated in his Birth Certificate. The girl could not fancy herself being known in the community as Mrs. of the husband bearing that funny nickname. Her children too who were to follow from the marriage and would include daughters would suffer bearing that funny surname!

Strangely the girl's dislike welled up in her for any boy with that nickname when she had not even known or met the boy yet. It would however be silly on her part to give to her parents that silly nickname as the not-very-silly reason for her refusal of the proposal.

Later when the couple met according to the arrangements made by the parents for each to assess each other's liking, she felt, or she thought that she felt. much to her relief, that she did not like him after all, as she had prayed even before having seen him, though to all others in the family he was a suitable young suitor with an average likeable stature and complexion, apart from his other good merits. She tried hard not to link her dislike of his fair appearance to his funny nickname.

How should the parents of the girl handle the refusal of their daughter when they take her decision as sincere though surprisingly a wrong one with regard to such a goodproposal?

Life-long Torture

The practice of slapping nick-names, though demeaning, is not uncommon in any community. However, nicknames which are funny or outright abhorrent are a life-long torture for the victims (bearers) unless they choose to resign to them in order to get on with their lives. That would mean accepting and answering to the nick-names when called or addressed.

Some of the nick-names are the type which is so derogatory that one would hesitate to repeat, in order to clear the doubt, when the bearers introduce themselves by their nicknames. Strangely enough" a fair number of cases of nick-naming originate at home.

One common example is of a tradition which perhaps still exists. The grandfather or an elderly person in the family fondly allots nicknames to the small children in the family, such as would befit their appearance, complexion or other physical peculiarities. They then become known in the family more by such names, however funny or embarrassing these may happen to be, than by their real names, and later on in the community also during their adult life. Such a nickname is likely to become later in the life a Substitute for the family-surname also or attached to the surname for the victims and also for their Children to be borne.

There is yet one more example. Some older children, in rare cases, have a temporary weakness of bed-wetting. There is a tendency of the parents slapping a pertinent nickname to such a child in the false assumption that it will humiliate him and therefore deter bed-wetting. Instead of sympathising for the weakness, the child is humiliated, as intended, and agonised further only to prolong the weakness. What is Worse, however, is that the nickname assumes permanency even after the weakness has disappeared.

The holy Prophet said: "Give good names to the children". There are cases where this advice is followed rightly only to be Spurned rudely by supplanting the very good name with a nickname often by no other than the parents themselves.

Odd Exception

A person with an abhorrent nickname sees himself as an odd exception with regard to his social status. He has the nagging feeling of having been debased and made odd in the society. It nags him as a slur on his personality. "i.e however resigns to it because he finds that there is nothing else he can do about. To resist it is to intensify its agony.

No wonder that the holy Qur'an has specifically prohibited calling others by nick- names in the verse 49;11; "0 you who believe! and do not find fault with your own people nor call one another by nicknames; evil is a bad name after faith, and whoever does not turn (lamm yatub), these it is that are the unjust". A person is therefore deemed to be sinfully wronged each time he is addressed or referred to by a nickname which offends him.

As nick-naming is common in a society which chooses to tolerate the practice, children have to be taught to be alert not to attract or fall for it. It is a constant exercise of caution and tact. To ignore a nickname when it is given is being wise, while to, respond to it is being stupid. To show anger amounts to offering oneself as a source of fun to other children and is a guarantee for the nickname to remain stuck for life-time. There are examples of deceaseds being identified by their names with-nick- names on the grave's head-stone.

The advice to the parents therefore is not to allow nicknaming at home. They should also brief the child how to be circumspect to ward off any such a possibility outside the home; and how to ignore and defeat a start of any nickname. More importantly, the parents should instruct the child not to call others by their nicknames.

The extended family should also avoid giving cousins similar names under a common surname. When a similarity of names exists in a local community, one child is then distinguished from the other by a nickname.

Adapted from the book: "Child" by: "Mohamed A. Khalfan"

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