Muireann taking photos in Uganda


Mac Cool's Uganda Letter

Photographs and Stories by Muireann Mac Cool


B l o g

My many Names

08 Aug 2006

My name may be beautiful but it's not simple. Added to pronounciation difficulties I may start getting called something different once I have children.

Moreen, Miriam, Mary, Marion, Mao-reeeen, Noreen are just a few of the renditions of my Christian name Muireann. A Microsoft Word spell check will even underline my name in red to highlight that no way on earth this M u i r e a n n could actually be the correct spelling for anything. If the Microsoft Word spell check had a face it would be Ugandan. Most Ugandans turn to my fiance with a look of No the poor child doesnt even know her own name. They repeat every name they know that is similar to mine and when Ive rejected them all they settle on one they think most suits me (or their palette).

I completely forgive them because at the best of times even the Irish cant get my name right. I tell Irish and other Europeans that my name is like Merlin except without the l. With Ugandans thats a really tricky thing to say to them because mostly they cant pronounce er. Water becomes wa-tah, shepard becomes ship-hard and heard becomes had. The r sounds are also frequently confused with an l and vica-versa. Lisa become Risa and Lauren oddly enough became Noreen.

In attempt to stem the tide of being called Moreen for the rest of my life Ive decided to tell people that my name is MacCool (I dont bother with the Irish spelling anymore). Luckily MacCool is similar to a Ugandan name Makumbi. Thats my name these days and its good, it works and I respond well to it. I also am known as FXs wife in Luganda even though we are not married. The luganda word mukala (pronounced muchala) means respected woman, which is not technically wife.

If and when I fall pregnant I will have a troublesome nine months thinking of my first-borns Christian name (FXs elder pass on an appropriate clan name which may not be FXs name). Most parents have to worry about whether the name will result in bullying, be too common or just down right dull. I on the other hand will loose my name MacCool and be called Maama first-borns name. Will I be Maama Fionn or Maama Bernadette. I have to choose something good for them and me because Ill be known as Maama So and So for the rest of my days. Also if I bare twins I will also loose my name Maama So and So to the traditional mother of twins name: Nalongo. The father is called Salongo.

For the moment Im just happy to be called MacCool and so far so good. Moreen is deffinately miles ahead of being called Muzungu.

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