Written by Azizi Powell
I'm a big fan of African Americans giving traditional African and Arabic names to their children or creating a name that "sounds" African. But there are some African/Arabic sounding names that I think it's better to avoid just because of the negative associations that their sounds are likely to have in the United States and in other Western nations. One example is the name "Tamu", a Swahili female which means "sweetness". In the 1970s there was a Black doll that was marketed named "Tamu", but that doll didn't sell well. I've always maintained that part of the reason why so few Black mamas who were desparately seeking Black dolls for their daughters didn't embrace that doll was that she had a very short fro. The problem with that is that a big part of the play activities that little girls-including little Black girls-look forward to doing with dolls is styling their hair. And you can't style a short afro. The other major problem with the name "Tamu" (tah-moo)is how it sounds. No one wants their child to have a name that ends in the sound a cow makes.
The Arabic name "Fatima" and its variant forms "Fatimah", "Fatma" are other female names that have a positive meaning in other nations but might be best not given to American girls. "Fatima" literally means "weaned" (a baby girl who is no longer breast feed). That name has a very positive significance among Muslims because it was the name of a favorite daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. But among Americans, the first part of the name Fatima, Fatimah, Fatma sounds the same as the word "fat"*. In my opinion, giving your child a name that sounds like "fat" is setting her up a life of teasing and taunting.
*I know two African American women who adopted the name "Fatimah" as adults. It happens that both of these woman are converted Muslims. However, many Americans who have an Arabic name aren't Muslim.
Although the traditional way Arabic speakers pronounced/pronounce Fatima (Fatimah) is FAH-mah, following American pronunciation customs, that name is usually pronounced "fah-TEE-mah".
"Fatou", (fah-too) "Fatu" (fah-too), "Fatoumata" [unsure about the traditional pronunciation] and "Fanta" (fahn-tah?) are West African forms of the Arabic female name "Fatima"-West African culture has been influenced by Arabic culture since the 11th century AD. Of those names, "Fanta" is the only one that doesn't have that "fat" beginning element. Even though "Fanta" is a brand name of a carbonated soft drink, I don't think that has any built in problems for American females. Of course, it's just my opinion that those names are problematic in the United States (and in other "Western" nations). I won't get upset if you don't agree. However, as I write for each name entry on my Cocojams Names & Nicknames pages, if Fatima, Fatou, or other variants of those names is your name, I hope that you wear your name proudly.
This page on my Cocojams website Names And Nicknames has more comments about those two names.
Here's a YouTube video (sound clip) of a delightful children's song by Sengalese singer Toure Kunda entitled "Fatou Yo" (My Name Is Fatou")
AFRICA Music /Best of all time : TOURE KUNDA: Fatou Yo
WitnessTheDevine, Uploaded on Jul 16, 2011
This is an african song , a little all , Almost every generation in Senegal loved it .....Every generation sang it , ,, and it still rocks ......
Here's a summary of that song from Best Children's Music
"Toure Kunda (TOUR-ray KOON-dah) / Senegal / Fatou Yo (I Am Fatou) sung in Mandingo. Fatou is a little girl who lives in Senegal, a country in Africa. She likes to dance with the other boys and girls in her village, and dreams about singing with baby elephants and giraffes. The song is a sikko (SEE-koh), a dance where people get in a line and hold their hands towards the sky or hold the waist of the person in front of them. Senegal is a country in Western Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean. There are many different tribes and ethnic groups, each with a unique culture. Languages spoken include Wolof, Fulani, Serer and Mandingo, but the common language is French because Senegal used to be a colony of France."
According to this page on Lyrics Vip Fatou Yo 's lyrics are
Fatou yo su diadialano
Fatou Faye Faye Fatou
Fatou klema oundio
Fatou yo si diadialano
Boutou mbele Boutou mbele
O mami sera
O mami casse
Ja cana canfa boulodi
Foyer zorola sodiaye
Sodia sodia ina gambia
Coco inako soyango
I am Fatou, the pretty Fatou
Like all the children of the world
I am lucky to have this pretty name
I am happy and will surely grow up
I will grow up like everybody else
Like the little elephants and the little
Giraffes that I will always love
They will all sing with me and with you
Sing with me
*"Mandango" is probably a typo for "Mandingo". A more appropriate term is "Mandinka" or "Malinke". Click here for a Wikipedia article on the Mandinka People
Here's a video of Senegalese vocalist Fatoumata Diawara's song "Bissa" from her 2011 CD entitled "Fatou" :
Uploaded by worldcircuitltd on Aug 10, 2011
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