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Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie reveals she invented the name ‘Chimamanda’ herself

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Due to her success and impact, especially as a feminist, Chimamanda is hugely popular among young Nigerian women.

As such, the name ‘Chimamanda’ has become a favourite among young mothers.

Speaking about her name in a new interview, the author shockingly revealed that she came up with the name herself.

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“I made up the name; I invented the name Chimamanda. I created Chimamanda; my parents did not name me Chimamanda,” the author told a stunned Ebuka Obi-Uchendu who hosted the interview on his Black Box Interview series on Bounce Radio.

It is true. The reason I decided to talk about it is because they say that culture does not change. Do you know how many people in Igbo land that are called Chamamanda today?

According to her, she was born Ngozi Grace-the latter after her mother.

Growing up, I always felt that I was not Grace, that was my mother, and Ngozi felt too common to me. In primary school, I was Ngozi,” she said.

The author who grew up in Catholic revealed that she first changed her name during her Confirmation.

“Being Catholic, one of the joys of Catholicism is that you get to choose a name when you get confirmed. I thought of a name I could choose but the priest said it had to be the name of a saint,” she said.

People were choosing ridiculous names like Bernadette. I read a novel and there was a character called Amanda, so, I chose the name, Amanda. The priest said it was not a saint’s name but I told the father that it was the name I wanted.”

“I pushed, so they let me. I was Amanda at Confirmation. I was Amanda from secondary school till my first year at the University at Nsukka when I was studying medicine.”

When she moved to the United States of America to study, she soon discovered that the name Amanda was a very popular one.

It was not unique anymore and the way it was pronounced put me off. I felt that was not me. I started thinking about how I could change the name,” she added.

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She went ahead to merge her name Ngozi and Amanda to be different, but it still didn’t sound right.

Still wanting an Igbo name and retaining her name ‘Amanda’ because of her passport, she just added ‘Chim’ to ‘Amanda’ to get ‘Chimamanda’.

Just before my novel was published, I was thinking, and I remember exactly where I was when it came to me,” she revealed.

I am not a person who is given to this kind of Pentecostal talk but it felt like a revelation, it really did. I was in my brother’s house in England, in their tiny guest room, lying on a narrow bed thinking about the fact that my novel is going to be published and I do not want to be introduced to the world as Amanda.

I wanted an Igbo name but I did not want Ngozi because I did not feel like Ngozi; it felt too common. Ngozi, I think is a lovely name but it is so common and it did not feel like me.

“I remember just lying there and it just came to me, Chimamanda. By the way, when I was thinking of a name, I could have just picked an Igbo name but I wanted a name that had Amanda in it so that I would not have to change my passport.

“I already had this identity; I had a passport, driver’s license, bank account with that name. So, it was really about how I could hold on to that name but make it Igbo.”

With that name, the 43-year-old has written six acclaimed books and a host of short fiction, won several awards and gained worldwide recognition.