Gender and meaning in Igbo romantic pet names

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 37, issue 1, 2017 , pages: 131–136
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2017.1316941
Author(s): Bibian AnyanwuDepartment of English, Nigeria, Anthony C. OhaLanguage Unit, Nigeria


Meaning in names is a cultural matter. Igbo names are mostly symbolic or metaphoric in meaning. Romantic pet names, by their nature, have a gender bias in most cultures of the world, as also in the Igbo language and culture, depending on the situation of usage. Igbo names have gender markers and this, to some extent, is reflected in the use of romantic names. Romantic names, in Igbo worldview, go beyond marriage and companionship. It involves secret admiration and interaction, where meanings are deciphered by the users only. By their usage, romantic names connote intimacy, beauty, fondness, appreciation, love, admiration and lust. Thus, each romantic name in Igbo carries hidden locution among the users. In this article, we deploy the content analytical method to explicate select romantic names used by the Igbo through the yardsticks of gender, structure and semantics. The conclusion reached is that romantic pet names in Igbo feature linguistic elements that portray meaning beyond sex and privacy. Furthermore, they are social significations that engender some positive attributes in the bearer.

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