Benjamin Mako Hill

My last post made me think of some of the other funny confusing cultural differences I experienced when I lived in Ethiopia.

One strange area is people’s names. In Ethiopia, like the West, a person’s first name is their given name. However, their second name is their father’s given name. Their third name is their paternal grandfather’s given name and so on and so fourth. People are expected to know up to eighth ancestors or their name up to eight places. For example: a man named Binyam who’s father is named Getachaw whose father is named Mekkonen would be named Binyam Getachaw or Binyam Getachaw Mekkonen.

Explaining the difference between the Western system (1+ given name(s) followed by a final family name) and the Ethiopian system fell on its face when I tried to use my own name as an example of the Western system because my second given name (my "middle name") is my father’s first given name. The conversation would go something like this:

Friend: "Your first name is your given name, right?"

Me: "Right."

Friend: "And your second name is your father’s first name?"

Me: "Well, yes. But that’s not normal. That’s a coincidence in this case."

Friend: "And your third name is your grandfather’s name?"

Me: "Well, yes. We have the same last name because all family members share a last name which is usually comes third."

Friend: "So it’s the same system!"

Me: "Ahhh!"

One Reply to “Benjamin Mako Hill”

  1. Ben!
      I am so glad that you put this notes..and it is the main problems for forigners who go to either Europe or U.S.A. I was one of those people who had problems putting names in order.
      First of all, we don’t have “Family name”. And, mostly we use first and last name only in the order.
    let’s say  A. is given name
      B. is father name
      c. is grandfather name

    when we write our full name…goes
      ABC…… commas at all.

    but…in U.S  C,AB


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