Just as I began writing this article, Nameberry tweeted: Did you hear a name today you’d never heard before? Most days, my answer would be, Nope, pretty much the same old, but that day I could proudly say, Yes indeedy. Well actually I didn’t tweet back because I was too busy writing this, but I’m saying it now.
The Australia Day citizenship ceremonies are always a wonderful source for discovering new names. This is one where some of the childrens’ names were new to me, but the parents’ names were familiar. And yet it was the parents’ names that knocked me for six.
The Matanhire family moved here from Zimbabwe in 2006; they came from the predominantly Shona-speaking city of Mutare, whose name translates as “gold”. They started off in Melbourne, but are now happily settled in Adelaide.
The Matanhire family admit to being motivated by a spirit of adventure, loving to travel and see new places. Mrs Matanhire used to tour African countries as a nurse, educating other healthcare professionals about HIV and AIDS. When a relative who lived in Sydney told them how beautiful Australia was, it seemed like another adventure for them.
Mr Matanhire said becoming a citizen was like “taking a step into a new life”. “It feels very good, you feel like you can plan your life,” he said. Mrs Matanhire said becoming a citizen meant “you belong to the country; you belong to Australia”.
Elvis (aged 45): This is Mr Matanhire’s first name, which was covered as a Famous Name around the time of The King’s birthday anniversary. Once I would have thought this was too over-the-top for a regular person’s name, but now I actually love seeing it in general use. You pretty much assume the parents of anyone called Elvis were massive Presley fans, and this (rightly or wrongly) is how I am picturing Mr Matanhire’s mum and/or dad.
Silence (aged 41): Mrs Matanhire’s first name is a virtue name I saw covered at Names from the Dustbin. When I saw it, I admit to being quite horrified, because as a parent, the thought of your baby becoming completely silent is your worst nightmare. And as a Puritan name almost exclusively given to girls, it has connotations of women being forced into silence in an oppressive way. However, seeing it on an attractive, confident, well-travelled adult, who is clearly not being kept silent and in fact had to do a lot of talking as part of her career, I have softened a little. Now I can see a certain beauty in it, and it makes me think of the inner silence that comes through prayer and meditation.
Caroline (19): Usually the name Caroline doesn’t stand out in a family, but in this case it seems unusual compared to the others. Being the eldest born, I wonder if Caroline was given a family name.
Anesu (15): This is a Shona name which can be given to both boys and girls. For boys, it is the pet form of Isheanesu; for girls, the pet form of Anesuishe. In either case, it means “God is with us”. This Anesu is a boy.
Rumbidzai (4): A female name which means “praise”. I have read that it was originally a royal name, but don’t know if that’s correct. Rumbidzai was born in Australia, so is already a citizen.
Edret: Edret is Elvis’ sister who lives with the family; it’s possible she was the person who first suggested they come to Australia. Her name is a complete mystery to me, mostly because the Edrets I found online tended to be Hispanic men. Perhaps it is short for a longer name. Elvis and Edret make an impressive sibset.