Taiwo means “tasted the world first,” and traditionally, this is the name given by the Yoruba people of Nigeria to the older twin. It is a unisex name, so if you meet someone from Nigeria called Taiwo, they will have a twin, like I do.
Growing up, I knew many Taiwos, as twins are quite common in the part of Nigeria I lived in, so having people say, “Where’s your twin?” when I told them my name, was a regular occurrence, and I still get it now when I meet people familiar with Yoruba culture.
So when I was 11 and started secondary school, I think a part of me wanted to not just be “the twin” straight away, which is probably why I let my name be shortened to “Tai.” I was still Taiwo, but over time, only family and close friends referred to me by my full name. Of course I didn’t mind being called Taiwo; Tai was a nickname, and I didn’t know any Taiwos who were called Tai, so it was nice to be unique.
But this week, something happened that changed my view of things.
I was with a nurse in a clinic, and even though I pronounced it about five times, she didn’t address me by name. I use my full name on placement, you see, (#professionalism), and it took about an hour for me to realise she wasn’t saying it.
I was paired with someone in my year (I’ll call her Susan), and we both introduced ourselves every time a new patient came in. So the nurse would be like, “Okay fill in the patient’s details, Susan,” and “Don’t forget to wash your hands, Susan,” but to me, she would just gesture or say things like “Well done… you.” She said Susan’s name every time, but not once did she say mine. I was there for three hours.
Apparently my name is hard to pronounce, and that’s why she didn’t even try. Ouch.
In the almost 13 years it’s been that I’ve lived in the UK, I’ve never felt so “othered.” I felt embarrassed for having a ‘foreign’ name, and even regretted not going with “Tai” for the clinic. This lasted for about five minutes, and then I remembered this:
It reminded me that my name is meaningful, special and has great significance in Yoruba culture. It’s not hard to pronounce (Tie-whoa), and even if it was, that doesn’t give people an excuse to ignore me.
So from now, I will introduce myself to everyone I meet with my full name, and people who don’t make an effort to learn how to say it won’t get to call me Tai.
My name is Taiwo.