chapter  6
Onomastics and Wordplay
Pages 40

Children ran and lined up along the track to see the train pass by in a flash, the wind spreading out on both sides, in the midst of voices crying Mupepe, Mupepe, the Wind; thus the chidren named Mankunku the Wind because they were so amazed by the whirlwind of air the long column of cars left behind. As for the adults, they had given him the name Massini, the Machine Man, being as admiring as the children who ran along behind the cars, hoping to catch up with them. (ibid.:133)

Mankunku’s full name, reflecting as it does the situation of his birth, his character, and his status, offers a pertinent illustration of naming practices in traditional African societies, in which, as critics such as Lawson-Hellu, Bandia, and Marcelline Nnomo have observed, proper names are “un indice précieux d’identification et de caractérisation du personnage” [a precious clue to the identity and character of the individual in question] (Nnomo 1999:243-4).1