Ya fre me Afia (yah freh may AHH Fee Ah) is my answer when Ghanaians ask my my name in twi. They call me Afia. If pressed, I say Afia Cookie. Bob introduces himself as Yaw (yeow) Bob.
I chose Afia as my Ghanaian pseudonym for two reasons. I was born on Friday and this of all the Friday born girls names was the closest to the name of my beautiful niece Aphia. Some other choices are Afua, Afi, Efia, Afí, Efia and Efua. Bob could have chosen Yao, Yaba, Yawo, Ekow, Kow or Kwaw but Yaw is the most common name for a Thursday born boy and who would want to call themselves Kow anyhow?
It’s really convenient, this system of naming by the day of our birth. I really only have to learn fourteen names, one male and one female for each day of the week and I’m pretty sure to recognize and be able to repeat most people’s names.
I love my niece and have been meaning to tell her that I now share her name. But this sharing is a source of confusion for me. Aphia is pronounced Ah FEE ah and so I often mispronounce my own Ghanaian name. Happily, the people I interact with are simply tickled that I am at least attempting to speak the language and cut me lots of slack, gently correcting me with a smile.
Here’s the list of the most common day names, boys name first:
Sunday – Kwasi, Akosua
Monday – Kwadwo, Adjua
Tuesday – Kwabena, Abenaa
Wednesday – Kwaku, Akua
Thursday – Yaw, Yaa
Friday – Kofi, Afia
Saturday – Kwame, Amma
Identifying yourself with a day is a pretty cool thing. Our friend Eric a.k.a. Kwabena told us he feels a special bond with all people born on Tuesday. And he gets to sit with them in church every Sunday. Each day has different responsibilities during the mass, he explained. We asked him if he and his wife had to sit in different sections of the cathedral and he said no because he married an Abenaa.
I think it would be great if more countries adopted this simple method of identifying with one another. And to be sure, many do. According to Wikipedia some of the other countries who practice the tradition of a day name are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Scandinavia, Slovakia, Spain, Latin America, Sweden, Turkey and the Ukraine.
Perhaps the United States will follow suit. I wonder if the U.S. would be a friendlier place if, for instance Kofi was running against Kofi for president.