My name is Ernest. Which is fine, I guess. It has its shortcomings, admittedly, but then what thing in this world does not? The fact that I am a Ugandan with a Ugandan accent and Ugandan acquaintances and correspondents is a problem—that means that this name of mine, with its prominent R will never be pronounced the way the designers intended. I call myself Ahnest and so does everyone else.
But this is not something anyone minds. We can live with that.
There is also the fact that, unlike Johnathan, Frederick, Samuel and Joseph, I cannot get a cool nickname from cutting my name short. The dictionary says the short form of Ernest is Ernie and well, we know what that sounds like in Uganda.
Again, though, this is no reason to call for lynchings—I can live with that, too.
There is one problem, though, that cannot be lived with. It cannot be tolerated, and I know this because I have tried to let it slide and I have failed to. Every time it happens I feel things rise in my throat, thick, bitter biley things. I feel my knuckles quiver. My hair begins to shake. This is an item that cannot be endured. And that is the habit the internet has found of spelling my name as Earnest.
People whose names are also adjectives, Innocent, Immaculate, Peaceful, Gentle, Financially Solvent etc, are usually Zambians but even if they come from other lands, I mean them no offence. But I don’t want one.
It bothers me. It gives me that very uncomfortable feeling, like there is a fluttering insect, a moth of some sort, trapped in a corner near the back of my brain, when I see somebody who just read my name on my facebook page before they put their comment down, (they must have read it, otherwise, how would they know they were commenting on my page and not Jennifer’s?) and then decides to spell it the other way instead.
It’s not a moth, it’s a vampire bat. It’s savagely beating at the walls now.
How does this come about? There is no one of any note ever in history who was called Earnest. For all we know that name does not even exist in human nomenclature. There are plenty of instances where people were called Ernest, that is an actual human name that exists, so why not go with that option if you are not sure?
I don’t love the way the name sounds, but I nevertheless do like it. It has a heritage. It was bequeathed to me, you see, from my grandfather, a man of substantial worthiness and if it’s the only way I am like him, I’ll take it.
But anyway, I was just introducing myself. My name is Ernest. Not Earnest. There is no one whose name is earnest.