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What Is In A Name?

 What Is In A Name?

By Mitiku Adisu

In the American Deep South the Ethiopian-born, 1-year old baby Demelash Wodajo ደመላሽ ወዳጆ is now Alexander Cole. The Coles, we gather, chose the name "Alexander" not just because it carried the same meaning in the Greek and Ethiopian [avenger/defender] but because it matched the names of their three children (Ashleigh, Allyson and Andrew). This is understandable though the idea of leaving no trace of Demelash's ደመላሽ heritage (except for his color) is not. Pastor Cole, a Baptist minister and very likely familiar with naming in our part of the world, should be the first to admit the linguistic and cultural significance of the choice.
It is true the Coles are excited and gracious about their adopted son. But in the end, Alexander is not going to adequately make up for the loss of Demelash nor will "Alex" for "Deme". Alex is just Alex whereas Deme ደሜ is "my blood, my root, my line, my life". So what is in a name? Probably everything. Why was the baby named Demelash? Is there a family history that the boy needs never to forget?
From the Coles' report we understand Demelash has an uncle (who may not even be his uncle as the adoption "trade" is not always tightly regulated and has become a way of making few bucks) and probably also other unnamed family members [even a mother]. This is not unusual at all considering cases of adult adoptees connecting to family once deemed non-existent. [See here.] We don't wish to add to your burden but the loss of a unique identity may be on the line. And it may not be too late or unwise to reconsider keeping the name Demelash Wodajo--especially in the Deep South.
Read More of the Coles story.


Thank you for the post. We have tried to address your concerns on our blog:
Unknown said…
Shame on you.If you were so concerned about these children and their names,why aren't you over there feeding them and providing medicine for the illnesses that plaque them?It is real easy to sit in your safe little world and find fault with others.What are you doing to save their heritage?Not much from my point of view.
Dear Connie,
Thanks for the comment. We only wish you had first checked your facts. We also wonder why you thought we are in a "safe little world." Just so you remember, the purpose of the post was to show we are concerned for the future of Demelash. God bless you.
Dear Jason and Stacy,
Thanks for taking time to respond. As you have rightly pointed out "When we were adopted, God changes us and gives us a new identity." But that does not necessarily mean when he adopted you and your wife you should have taken up an Ethiopian name!
Secondly, we brought up Lemn's story [among several we've come across] only to highlight his pent-up reaction, and not to compare England with Ethiopia, etc.
Finally, you are right in saying "Heritage, criticism and excuses will not feed, clothe, or care for these children. But you can!" It is good you did you part the best you can. We would also point out heritage does have a place in our wellbeing. Please remember our post was a direct response to a news article and was meant to show concern for baby Demelash. Nothing more. God bless and guide you on how to be good parents to all your children.
[See also our response to Connie]
Anonymous said…
Seriously?! Don't we have enough Evil, Destruction, and Hate in this world that we shouldn't have time to spend on petty things such as the renaming of a child. Go tell somebody about Jesus or something instead of attacking people who are just trying to do what they've been called to do.
Thanks Anonymous. Yes, we do have enough Evil, etc in the world. Yes, we need to tell people about Jesus[have you checked our blog?] Yes, names matter [we wonder why you chose to remain anonymous] and, what's more, no one is attacking anyone. God bless.