Be My Guest: Saptosa Foster


That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet -William Shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet"

Go ahead and admit it. You looked at the name of my guest blogger and said, Sap-what?

Her name is Saptosa. And for years, she’s had to deal with people cocking their head to the side, scrunching up their eyebrows and saying, “What kind of name is that?”

The idea for this particular column came about when Saptosa submitted photos of her family for my Mother’s Day column. The pictures were so rich and beautiful. I asked her to send me the names of her parents and siblings. And her dad’s name is Newsville. Newsville!! A man named Newsville names his daughter Saptosa?

I immediately asked Ms. Foster to tell us how she got such an unusual name. She agreed. And her story is awesome.


Hi, My Name Is….

By: Saptosa Foster

Shakespeare wrote “What’s in a name?” in Romeo and Juliet over 400 years ago.

I’m forced to ponder this famous question on a daily basis.

Hi, my name is Saptosa. Say it with me: “Sap-toe-suh.” Saptosa Marginee Foster to be exact. Seems perfectly normal to me, but apparently the world thinks it’s unusual.

Every single day I’m asked what my name means.

I tell the short version: “Truth seeker.”

After which, the questioner assumes that this meaning is derived from some sort of East Indian culture or religion or African dialect – all of which is wrong.

My parents were just weird.

The long version of my name is an acronym that stands for “Search After Purity Truth Organizing Steady Attainment.”

The origin of my name has become family folklore. From what I’ve gathered, in the ‘70s, my parents were starry-eyed hippies who were passionately involved in a movement called the Universal Sanctum of Meditation (U.S.O.M), a spiritual following founded by my grandfather who was known as “Brother Ignatius.” (Stay with me here.)

My mom wanted to come up with a really creative moniker for her first-born, so she meditated and allowed the seven words of “Saptosa” to enter her subconscious.

My uncle says marijuana helped a lot.

“We were young and wanted to save the world through meditation,” my Dad told me. “We thought we were special people and wanted our child to have a special name.”

My parents were so successful at creating a special name that, to this day, there is only one “Saptosa” on the planet. Believe me, I checked. According to Lexis-Nexis, there’s a “Saptosa” registered in New York and one in Georgia – both are past and current residences; both are me.

The closest I’ve ever gotten to finding another name like mine was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Caroline Satoda, a young Japanese woman who was very kind and smiled a lot.

Of course, I endured tons of teasing as a child. Over the years, my name has suffered all kinds of butchering – “September,” “Sap-uh-to-suh,” “Supposed-To,” “Toast,” “Halitosis” – the works. Not even me Mom pronounces it correctly. When she’s not calling me by my siblings’ names, she drops the ‘p’ and says ‘Suh-to-suh.’ I guess 33 years of saying the same name over and over will do that.

Still, I emerged from childhood fairly un-phased by the name-teasing. The ridicule actually made me appreciate my name even more, which is why I don’t encourage nicknames. Saptosa is enough, thank you.

I come from a long line of strange names. My dad’s name is Newsville. There’s my grandfather Ignatius. I’ve got my cousins Astroon and Sladie and my great-great grandmother Marginee, whose name I carry.

It’s probably no coincidence that they’re all Jamaican, a culture responsible for names like “Denzel,” “Delroy” and “Barrington.”

Then there are my four siblings, whose names get progressively simpler as you go down the line. My sister is Alepha. Her name comes from Aleph, in Psalm 119:1. My brother Soron’s name came from some junk mail that was sent to my Mom in error. My youngest siblings Cortney and Athena were given their names because “they just felt right at the time,” my Dad says.

As the lone Saptosa on the map, I can’t recall a time when my name has hindered me in any way, especially not in my career. I can’t say the same for the rest of the Shaniquas of the world.

In a 2003 study conducted by the University of Chicago, people with names like “Pam” or “Amber” got called back for job interviews 50 percent more times than applicants named “Lakisha” or “Shaniqua.”

No surprise there. We live in a prejudiced society that obsesses over all the wrong things. So does that mean black people should ditch “Laquan” for “Larry?”

Shelby Steele thinks so. “It’s a naïveté on the part of black parents,” said Steele, “to name their children names that are so conspicuously different than American mainstream names. It suggests to people outside that community who hear those names a certain alienation. Certain hostility.”

Dude, ever heard of a man named Barack?

Steele, an author and researcher on race relations (who also wrote a book last year hypothesizing why Obama could not win the presidential race), makes a point I’ve heard far too many times from far too many “educated” blacks. And it’s annoying.

Why should African-Americans compromise their creativity and identity to make others feel comfortable? Haven’t we assimilated enough?

There are times, however, when keeping it real goes wrong. I think most people would think twice before naming their child Marijuana Pepsi Jackson. But that’s exactly what this Wisconsin woman’s mother did. And despite a lifetime of jokes, questions and suspicious glances at her driver’s license, Jackson is a successful teacher with a master’s degree and a great sense of humor.

I think Shakespeare had it right. Names really aren’t that important. It’s one’s character, actions and intentions that define you. My parents taught me that. They showed me how to wear my name with confidence and pride. Their unconditional love, support and discipline made me feel like the world would love me just as much as they did. These are the tools that enabled me to accept who I am beyond the oddness of Saptosa.

I think an unusual name can make you destined for greatness. Just ask Oprah.

The Foster family. Mom JoAnne, father Newsville. Saptosa, Soron and Alepha

The Foster family. Mom JoAnne, father Newsville. Saptosa, Soron and Alepha

Saptosa Foster is a graduate of Spelman College. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in The Source, Savoy, Honey, Vibe, Fader, The Ave, Creative Loafing, Complex and XXL. In 2005, she partnered with colleague Shante Bacon in a marketing/advertising/PR venture known as the 135th Street Agency.

In her spare time, she bakes cupcakes, rescues stray cats and spoils her two nieces silly.


Dear readers: Where do you stand on unusual names? Do you think names like Shaniqua and LaKisha should continue to flourish? Is it just a part of Black culture to give our children colorful names? Does it matter? Do you have an unusual name? What about your children or siblings? Do you believe that your name can impact your career? I’d love to hear from you…


46 Responses to “Be My Guest: Saptosa Foster”

  1. Luvvie Says:

    This was a GREAT read. One thing that comes with having an unusual name is that you become very Google-able. I won’t tell a lie. I Googled Saptosa and was given 19 pages of results. Pretty cool.

    My first name is Yoruba, so it’s not that common in the U.S. That alone made me stand out all my years in school. Then my nickname (& name I go by professionally) is also not that common, and occurs more as a last name than first name. Put these together, and I’m also purely the first 3 pages in Google when you type me in. Has it hindered my career? Nope. I get the “African” pass, actually.

  2. Tremaya Says:

    As someone with a unique name, gotta love this post. I’ve often wondered why my Mom gave me the really “distinctive” name and my sister’s is your everyday All-American, Ashley. But I’m happy to be different and I love my name, especially when someone of Hispanic heritage rolls it off the tongue the way it was intended to be pronounced (my name is Spanish).

    However, I do think you should weigh heavily the name you give your child, but there’s nothing wrong with creativity in my opinion. But some people do tend to take it a tad bit far.

    I always find it funny that people research that African Americans with “Black” sounding names don’t get as many call backs for jobs. What about those African Americans with “Anglo” sounding names that do get called in for an interview and “pleasantly” surprise the HR rep? If the HR person or company is racist/prejudiced, then chances are they’ll be passed over or otherwise mistreated just the same, so on behalf of all of us with “different” sounding names, thanks for not calling me back to begin with and wasting my time.

  3. la negrita Says:

    I absolutely LOVE her family photo. Will be back later with thoughts.

  4. Alisha Says:

    Great post! I’ve seen Saptosa’s name several times. The first time, it was in an article in Black Enterprise. I thought, “Hmm, okay. Moving on.” Names don’t really bother me. I have a fairly simple name. Most people want to spell it “Alicia”, which annoys me. I’m not sure if others see the “isha” as a “Black thing.” Who cares?

    I probably won’t name my child anything too complex. I’ve seen too many children in the 2nd and 3rd grade who can’t spell their own names.

  5. JennyWHOA Says:


    I have a co-worker who named her son Soundwayve earlier this year. She and I used to be friendly, borderline friends. Used to be. Once she named that poor, innocent baby that complete and utter nonsense (please notice the ghettofication of wave by adding the y…sigh) I decided that I couldn’t be friends with someone has no got damn sense. Her judgment must be severely impaired and since you’re judged by the company you keep…I got the hell out of dodge so to speak.

    Needless to say, she didn’t find this clip that I sent her shortly after his birth funny:

    I thought it was hilarious.

    I wish young, poor, people of color having children would THINK TWICE about branding their children with names that clearly and painfully denote the socioeconomic status that they were born into.

    And please note: there is a difference between cultural/ethnic names and names that mofos who, perhaps, have no business having children in the first place, just pull out of their asses altogether.

    Made up names, syllabic groups *randomly* smushed together and the like need to be ILLEGAL. There should be a law; you give birth and the name you choose for your baby has to be APPROVED by the Baby Naming Counsel or some other sound minded governing body. Seriously. I’m willing to go down to my local hospital and try and talk some sense into Shaquanna who has decided to name her son Martravius (real name btw…you should know whose name this is Aliya LOL). Who’s with me? This is a real problem.

    And NO MORE APOSTOPHES IN NAMES PLEASE! These babies grow up and have to become productive citizens of the world. Tah’jahi is going to have a helluva time when he gets older. REAL NAME btw!

    Black people have not overcome to the point where we have the LUXURY of freestyling our babies’ names. REAL TALK. Stop throwing Barack Obama in the mix to try and prove a point. What if he didn’t get elected until 2028????

    I always joke Beyonce was never going to be anybody’s Supreme Court Justice with that name LOL!

    “I want my son to know that he can be successful and unique.” –Soundwayve’s mom.

    So you mean little Victor or little Jason couldn’t be just as successful because they have “ordinary” names? BULL.

    Please. He’ll be successful DESPITE his name.

    Can you tell I’m passionate about this topic? LOL

  6. jshep Says:

    your parents sound amazing! love your name, your siblings’ too.

  7. Tara Pringle Jefferson Says:

    I have to say, she LOOKS like a Saptosa. It fits her. :)

    Great essay!

  8. Thurselle Says:


    Well with a name like Thurselle (I was named after an aunt who was named by a Native American mid wife down in N. Carolina) I was delighted to read this article after a life time of mispronunciations, mis- spellings, and “Why dey name you dat?” . I am a 15- year human resource veteran and I can tell you that I don’t care what your name is as long as you are qualified “You’re Hired!” (I know this rule does not apply to all HR professionals…But do your best with what you’ve been given). I fearlessly named my daughter Yasmine (her dad is muslim)…To be exact Yasmine Jameelah pronounced = Yaz-meen Ja-meel-uh…I make it flow…LOL. Her name means Flower Beautiful…The best part of beauty…That’s my girl.



  9. paulcantor Says:

    Saptosa is a dope name in my opinion. Very…. unique. I like names that sound like they have depth to them…. even as far as artists go… Kanye “West,” John “Legend,” Stevie “Wonder,” “Smokey” Robinson, Marvin “Gaye,” Lauryn “Hill,” and so on… Speaking of which, wish i had a cooler name… Paul just, sucks.

  10. Vonsuala Says:

    Ok….I’ve known Saptosa since high school and to think about it I never really thought her name was different or funny. Like Saptosa, I am the only Vonsuala there is. I’ve searched and there are plenty of Consuela’s but not a single person with the same name as mine. Most people completely screw up my name the second they take a look at it and I immediately tell them….”it’s ok just say Von”. My name is a spanish name and therefore is pronounced Von-swa-la instead of the million other names I get called. At first I had a problem with my name but as I grew older I became very comfortable with it and loved being different.

    I am extremely proud of Saptosa and continue to wish her the best!!!!

  11. Yolonda Says:

    Love your name and the folklore behind it. Great read

  12. Saptosa Marginee Says:

    I’m honored by everyone’s kind words. I had such a good time writing this so it’s great to see that people enjoyed reading it. I just hope I didn’t embarass my parents (they haven’t read it yet). They both hold pretty important jobs now and — like a lot of parents — they try to act like they’ve never been young and crazy.

    Much love again to the great Aliya S. King for the opportunity!!

  13. aka NWSO Says:

    Well, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my name: Anslem. I never had a nickname till adulthood, where people called me Ans (Sorry, Aliya it’s Ans not Antz—I’m not a small insect). And I always hated (still do) repeating my name a million times. It’s a frustrating vocal dance I know is coming each time I meet someone. Hansel. Handsome. Antoine (gay). Anthem. etc. I once got a piece of junk mail addressed to Ms. Antenna Samuel. SMH @ Antenna AND Miss.

    I love the uniqueness of my name, but hate the introduction process. As long as the person is as phonetically close to it as possible I give them a pass of “close enough.” But if I say my name and someone doesn’t even bat an eye, I know they weren’t even listening.

    Never met another Anslem other than my father, but I’ve met other folks who know other Anslem’s. There’s even another Anslem Samuel on FaceBook in India somewhere and there’s an older Anslem Samuel that was some big music manager or something in England.

    Despite the hassle, it’ my name and at the end of the day, that’s all we got.

  14. Katura Says:

    I like that my name is (relatively) unique and get a little too annoyed when someone says “Oh, I know someone named Katura.” I wish I were the only person with my name.

    I used to get “Ka what” and some people still can’t read and call me Katrina (HATE that). I don’t have strong feelings about what other people name their kids, but I do find apostrophes in names a bit weird, and I think it’s crazy when people don’t know what their name means–which makes it hard for people whose names don’t mean anything….

  15. Retha Says:

    GREAT, great post! To prove how generally “lazy” we ALL are at getting a person’s name right, I kept reading her name as “Sa-pos-ta” totally transposing the syllables. LAZY!! Anyway, I love your name, love that its an acronym….how cool were your parents!! lol I think, we do have to really consider what we name our children. When thinking of a name for my 2 year old, I certainly did not want a name that would put him in a “box” immediately, but given his very ethnic last name, it couldn’t be avoided :) so I ended up giving him my mother’s maiden name, Taylor. I think that will be easy enough for him to get through school with….I was always called “Reefa Nickel Bag” in high school….fun! And my name is simple enough, I thought. My sister has a different name, Ouzama, and she struggled in school with people just getting it wrong, more recently there are the Osama jokes and even her boss, at a major pharmaceutical company, during a large meeting, mistakenly called her Obama!!!! People still don’t get it! I do think we black folks have a long way to go. A couple years ago I met a family with 2 daughters, one was about 17, the other around 20…their names…..Turquoise and Sapphire…..the mother was dress head to toe in that same shade of blue! I guess she liked the color :) My husband said they sounded like stripper names, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for those girls…..
    Beautiful pic, btw

  16. Honey Walrond Says:

    First off Aliya King I love your blog (I am avid reader)

    It was a great surprise when I read today’s entry – seeing the be my guest column by Saptosa Foster. I’ve met Saptosa before, when I first heard her name I was curious of it’s origins, but never asked. It’s nice to read the history behind her name. Now I know the meaning what a cool name :-) Wonderful post Saptosa!

    When I was growing up I’ve had to deal with the “Yes, my real name is Honey” too many times. Back in the 80’s, I don’t think my name was very common. Maybe now it’s different, but every now and then I still get the face of ‘no your real name’ when I tell someone my name is Honey.

    I love my name and I wouldn’t change it for anything else. With 2 masters – one in English and one in Education, I’ve never experienced any obstacles preventing me from getting ahead because of my name. I feel a person’s character counts more than their name, if they live up to the name that’s even sweeter. I also believe it’s how you carry yourself.

  17. Portia Says:

    Ahhhh….what an awesome post Aliya. As someone with a somewhat unique name(Portia)…I have had many questions during introductions. 90% of them are silly and annoying. “Why’d your parents name you that? Did your parents love the car?” “Oooooh, how fast can you go?” and for those who know me and want to sound oh so original, as if they were the first to ever think of this one-liner…”How ya doin’ ________(insert name of any car here). It got to the point where I was (and still am) able to sum up the level of one’s intelligence or lack thereof based on their reaction to my name! Any educated person’s response will usually be a quote from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” or “Julius Ceasar”. You have no idea how it makes my heart sing when I hear the latter response. Some of my older patients will tell me how their was a radio soap opera on “way back when” called “Portia Faces Life” and each time I hear that I am reminded of how I would love to somehow get the archives for that show and listen in to see what all the fuss was about.

    What’s in a name. hmmmmm…. People would be surprised to know the truth behind my naming. I would love to say (and usually do) that my parents are huge Shakespeare enthusiasts. (Black Caribbean born Shakespeare enthusiasts in the early ’70’s….how cool!) The truth is, I was almost a Paula or Paulette. (my twin brother is Paul…Thank you God that I am not one vowel away from my brother) The cold and less interesting facts about my naming are this: My mother during her 1st marriage used to babysit for a little girl and boy in her husband’s family named Portia and Dwight (Now rapper Heavy D) She fell in love with the little girl AND her name and swore that if she had a girl she would name her Portia. I have yet to meet Portia…but when and if I do…she needs to know this story. Interesting right? Now if anyone reading this hears me using my alternate reality story…don’t give me up!

    I will always anticipate awkward intro’s because of my name, but I must say, I can’t imagine being named anything else.

  18. Is boxing a good workout to get fit? | Boxingworkout Says:

    […] Be My Guest: Saptosa Foster « Aliya S. King […]

  19. Jackie H. Says:

    Hey Saptosa,

    I had to laugh out loud as I read this post! My family is Jamaican (what’s up fellow Jamerican!) is well, and my father is named Denzil…I guess my grandmother wanted to switch up the name Denzel a bit…haha…But I guess my parents didn’t feel the need to pass along those types of names to their children…However, the three of us do have alliterative names…for instance I am Jacqueline Joy…and my brothers have double D names…crazy, huh!

  20. Jackie H. Says:

    I meant to say “as well.” Hate typos!

  21. ErinS Says:

    Very cool post and I love that picture.

    From another perspective…my first name (Erin) means Ireland and is highly revered by Irish folks. I’ve never met another black Erin in my life, although my mom says there was one in my nursery school. When I walk in for an interview, I always get looks of surprise because no one expects me to be black. Irish first name with a weird German last name…no way.

    Can’t tell you how many times people have jacked up my name…”Erwin”, “Aaron”, “Irvin” and my personal favorite…”Erica” (?!). To save my son some grief, I named him Isaiah. Honorable name, easy to say…but no one can spell it right. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

  22. Claire Says:

    My name is pretty normal, though the middle name Siobhan (pronounced Sha-vonne) caused me years of distress. I didn’t know how to spell it until I was 9. Unlike Saptosa, though, I have found a contingent of pple who share this name. I’ve grown to love it.

  23. la negrita Says:

    Glad to see this topic come up. I actually have an unfinished post about names sitting in my blog drafts (see what happens when you’re a delinquent blogger??). I love my own name, but I hate it’s Googleability. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about contacting the folks at Google to erase any traces of my name from their search results! It’s a gift and a curse. On the rare occasion that I run into someone with my name, 9 times out of 10 it’ll be spelled differently. When I worked for BCBG, one day this girl came in and she spelled her first name EXACTLY how I spelled mine, AND we had the same birthday. How flippin crazy is that?!?! We were the same size too, haha. If I run into her again it will be fate and we’re gonna be best friends. She’s my non-twin twin.

    Anywho, I think certain names deserve to move from “ghetto” to “standard,” like “Tameka” and “Keisha.” Although these are traditionally black names, they’re fairly common and aren’t as outrageous as say…LaShontanique. What I find very interesting about names is that certain Indian names–like “Nimisha,” “Vanita,” “Kavita,” “Nisha,” etc–would probably be considered ghetto if they belonged to a black girl. We can look to “Monique” as an example. It’s actually a French name, but when folks hear it they automatically think “black girl.” is a unique name inherently ghetto, or does it become ghetto once it’s attached to a black person?

    I do think parents need to be careful when naming their children. I agree with the people who said that if hiring managers are prejudice, they’re going to discriminate regardless. But with an ambiguous name, I increase my chance of staying out of the “discard” pile from the outset. Getting a foot in the door is what matters.

    One final thought. I used to work in the residence hall when I was in school. Check-in was always an interesting experience, because the Chinese international students would change their names to the most Anglo names they could find, haha. Things like “Abigail” and “Emily” and “Emma” when their last name was “Xi” or something extremely complicated. I used to want to ask them what early American books they’d been reading to make them choose some of those names! I guess you do what you have to do, but choosing a more American-sounding name wouldn’t have made them stick out any less than they already did. I have an Italian co-worker that has the most BEAUTIFUL name. When she told me her real name my mouth dropped. Her middle name is “Nicoletta,” which she changed to “Nicole.” I was so mad at her parents–you’da thought they changed MY name lol. I was all “Why’d they Americanize your name?!?!” I mean she’s Italian…they been assimilated lol. But whatever makes people feel more comfortable, I suppose.

  24. SoSoulfull Says:

    I have such a boring and common name – Kimberly Renée. Growing up, I used to hate my name especially since my two sisters both had names that were a bit, um, ethic (LaShonda and LaEbony). There I was sandwiched between both these names and wondering what in the Sam Snead was my mother thinking? As I got older though, I learned to appreciate my name once I found out that I was named after my mom’s best friend (she later passed away in surgery, so it’s even more special now). Professionally, the name has helped out on the day job, but like I said in Monday’s #jsticks twitter chat, I started using a pseudonym with writing to help set me a part from others. Kimberly just doesn’t do it for me, but ay, I could be wrong. Only time will tell.

    When I had my two sons though, I wanted to give them strong, but biblical names. Hubs named our first son Darius Jahir (ja-HEER, which is Arabic for dignified) and I named our second son, Jeremiah Dylan. I also wanted them both to have built-in nicknames (DJ and JD) as to deter any future foolery. In the end, I believe names do count/matter (O-M-GEE, I am so right there with you JennyWHOA!!), yet character is just as important, if not more. But yeah, great, great read Saptosa. I loved it! =)

  25. flamboyantchiq Says:

    I love unusual names. When I found out that I was having twins, I wanted to name my daughter Le’Kandaisha and my son Maximus. I was vetoed by my parents and her father. I begged for Imaginae and Imaree and was laughed at. Conventional haters!!!

  26. Portia Says:

    @ErinS- My cousin’s name is Erin Johnson…so now you know there is one mor sister out there with your name!

  27. Portia Says:

    @LaNegrita- You never mentioned your name…what is it?

  28. la negrita Says:

    Haha, I be tryina stay low key Portia! But it’s Rosalyn. :)

  29. Lisa. Says:

    Well, uhm…I have a plain European sounding name and I hate it. I wish it was more…”black”. Maybe like Essence or some kind of African name with a meaning behind it. Nothing ghetto, just something a bit more cultured.

  30. clove Says:

    this is a really great story and saptosa’s parents are funny for having little rhyme or reason to their naming system. I can relate of course with a name like clover hope. people always think it’s fake and sometimes when I introduce myself for the first time I have to say clover, like the flower. my sisters both have regular names. but my name is perfect for a writer even though as a kid I didn’t exactly love it :)

  31. Aliya S. King Says:

    When I was young, I never ever came across another Aliya. Not through grammar, middle, high school or college. Not once.

    I think there was another Aliya at Rutgers University but I don’t think we ever met.

    Not until the singer Aaliyah came along did the name surge in popularity.

    My younger sister was also given an unusual name. At least it was unusual in 1978.

    Her name?


    Can’t make this stuff up people!

  32. Newsville Says:

    What’s the reasoning behind names like Saptosa, Soron and Alepha?

    We wanted our children to have names that would be distinctly their own, names that would give others a reason to start a conversation with them, perhaps.

    We relied on our own intuition at the time and not on what we thought would win us the approval of others. Naming your children, after all, is a personal decision between parents.

    It is my belief the child makes the name and not the name the child, though it could be argued otherwise. A case in point is the individual mentioned above that was given the name Marijuana Pepsi, and who does not now seem to have been forever harmed by that decision.

    There is at the moment just one Saptosa and she is the same earnest, thoughtful, intelligent individual she always was as a child. Were there to be another Saptosa someday, this one might turn out to be a different person entirely.

    Similarly, there is just one Alepha and one Soron, at least to my knowledge at the moment. Alepha is smart, determined and loyal. Soron’s got a curious mind, quite detailed, like an engineer’s, and is full of humor and good cheer. All are confident individuals.

    Their naming reflects where we were in our lives as parents at the time. It seems to have worked out well. In the case of my youngest children, Cortney and Athena, their naming does not reflect the uniqueness of their siblings’ names. Which is not to say that they are not in themselves unique persons.

    We relied on a more conventional approach to naming them, even as we removed the “u” from Courtney. Both children, however, have strong personalities all their own.

    Cortney the fearless philosopher and man of integrity can be both a lion and a lamb; Athena, bright and multi-talented, can be both demanding and level-headed at the same time; in essence, a diva. I do not for one moment believe not giving them unique names will be disadvantageous as they make their paths through life. Their personalities will make the difference.

    If you’re looking for a formula on how to name your child… if you believe there might be a right and a wrong way to go about it… if you are critical of the names other parents have given their kids, including the name that you were given by your parents, as I once was critical of my own name… know that you can always change the name to something else after the fact.

    Otherwise, you can choose your name as it is and learn to love it unconditionally, as I eventually came to love mine. Just choose it and keep on being that wonderful soul that you are. Peace & Love.

  33. Saptosa Marginee Says:


  34. Elon Says:

    Love this post. Love Saptosa’s father! And love commentary on “unusual” names.

  35. Imani Dawson Says:

    I loved, loved, loved this post.

    Even though “Imani” is now the Black “Jane,” when I was growing up, it was still quite unusual. So unusual, that few of my (white) teachers and (white) classmates could really wrap their tongues around it. I endured years of “Uh-Mani” and “Ar-Mani” without saying a word, because I got tired of the constant correcting.

    There was never an Imani in any books or movies, and Disney World keychains—fughettaboutit. I rarely heard it outside of Kwanzaa. I used to wish my name was “Elizabeth”. Now I love my name, Imani Ayondela Oshun Dawson (how’s that for a mouthful), which I believe embodies who I am, and who I’m trying to be.

    Ayondela-God loves her
    Oshun-Nigerian Goddess of Love

  36. clove Says:

    I love his response :’)

  37. Laura Says:

    Awesome post! I met Saptosa officially a few months ago and honestly thought nothing unusual about her name! However, I do love the backstory and even read Marijuana Pepsi’s story too (thank god her friends call her Pepsi). I substitute teach sometimes here in Atlanta and it’s funny the names I see. Before I pronounce a name wrong, I will say their last name or look up (b/c I know they are waiting for me to mess it up) and have them say it themselves.
    In college, I had an associate whose name is Skye and she would swear up and down that it was Gaelic. She got away with it for sometime…until we met her brother Storm who confirmed himself that their parents were hippies LOL
    I also grew up with a girl in my school named Ginger Basil and her brother’s middle name is Sage (i think unrealistic names like that are cool). Why oh why did my parents give me such a normal name? LOL (i love it regardless)

  38. Hosanna Says:

    My name isn’t too unusual. Although, I am the only Hosanna I know in my circle. My background is southeast asian. So there in the refugee camp, where christian missionaries found their calling, i was born and given a name straight out of the bible.

    My children all have rather unique names as well. Asia-kismet is my first born daughter’s name. i named her this for her to remember her asian roots [the ancestors] and kismet, well i’m sure you know that means fate. In essence the name means ancestral fate. Her middle name means Wisdom in my native tongue. My other daughter, my husband chose her name so it’s very normal but her middle name means Dream in my native tongue. And my son is named Kahlil after Kahlil Gibran with a middle name that has it’s roots in kemet and ethiopia.

    I believe names are important. I believe speech is magical. So i want my children to be blessed each time they are called by their names. I also believe that the character of a person surpasses their name in importance.

  39. Pretty Primadonna Says:

    I have a unique, made-up, two-syllabled, six-lettered name that doesn’t sound “ghetto” (at least that’s what I’ve been told). In fact, people are always insisting that it must mean *something*, probably because it sounds like it might be Arabic. ::shrugs::

  40. jovi Says:

    My name is Jovita Eileen. Thought is very strange until I got older and found out where it came from.

    My mother went to a boarding school in Baltimore and met two wonderful nuns, Sister Jovita and Sister Eileen.

    Growing up they messed it up real bad, I don’t think its difficult to pronounce. During roll call in class I would have to speak up before they butchered it. Hate it when I meet someone for the first time and they call me Jo. We just met, we are not friends.

    Met a girl in college with the same name, so EXCITED. Asked her where her parents got it from. Her dad’s name is Joe and aunt’s name is Vita.

    Did I mention I am African American? Everyone assumes I am Latino. All the other people that I have met with the same name have been Latino except for my college friend.

    ‘Different’ names should be embraced by don’t care for the Niqua’s.

  41. Sirena Says:

    I watch you all the time on Food Network and I always root for you. You are adorable. LOVE your ideas.

  42. Sirena Says:

    PS….I WISH I had an unusual name. I was supposed to be called Marisa which means “of the sea” but my Italian grandmother got angry so my mom had to call me by the common family name…Maria. Believe me, that one letter made a difference in many ways. I LOVE the name Saptosa.

  43. What’s in a name? | Says:

    […] I’m not sure that I’ve ever told the story of my name on my blog but after reading Saptosa’s story, I decided to tell […]

  44. Kenya McClellen Says:

    My name is Kenya St. Claire McClellen. I don’t think its so unusual. When I was in school and university, people always thought I was pulling a “switcheroo.” People have some expectation that someone named Kenya must be a black woman. I do have pretty blond hair and blue eyes, but I am definately a man. My career in marketing specializing in US-Asian relations has led to numerous arguments with customs officials that a man cannot be named Kenya. I was nearly arrested in Singapore and Indonesia because they thought my passport was stolen.

    My mother was a hippy-dippy flower child obsessed with Africa. As a child in the south I was called every racial slur imaginable just for being named Kenya. As an adult I now appreciate (probably) being the only white guy named Kenya. I’ve never met one.

    PS: Saptosa, you are a great writer!

  45. Shanequa Says:

    I loved this post!

    Shanequa – meaning: anointed by the grace of God. No seriously this is what my name means. My mother introduced me to a book by author Dorothy Astoria called The Name Book: Over 10,000 Names, Their Meanings, Origins, and Spiritual Significance. This book has my name in it as well as its origin, meaning and spiritual connotation. I lived for years always being embarrassed by my name. As most folks thought it to be ghetto. I do not fit the quote unquote stereotypes. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, I have excellent diction and I am educated. Even now I experience some of those same issues. But when I found out the actual meaning of my name, a whole new world opened up for me. I was able to walk in that meaning. However, my confidence in self as mentioned is not in my name but in my character and how I live my life before the God I serve. It is my duty as a “Shanequa” to be a representation that all Shanequa’s are not ghetto LOL.

    Stay blessed as you are!

  46. mujahidasadullah Says:

    Wow an amazing story of a remarkable individual.

    To answer one of the questions I don’t think african americans should give up the creativity in giving there kids names, to be quite honest I believe it is a deep feeling disconnection from our true heritage a feeling of being some what out of place which leads us to give our children these names like Shaniqua or Aliya or even Malik.

    Now I’m no clinical psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but that is how I feel which is why I named my first and so far only child saneia its meaning is in progress.

    Its the blood that flows thru our veins, the essence of our D.N.A that screams for a reconnection to a land that is rich in history we are unaware of.

    yes I am speaking of Africa or as the X-clan would say the mother land. Where these types of names would be far from uncommon.

    I agree with saptosa’s retort of “haven’t we assimilated enough” I believe it was, I think we have surpassed the periphery of assimilation both as a people and a culture. as a people even with all the current genology reaserch that can place u according to your D.N.A in a region maybe even a tribe or a people if there still in exsitence (this I am very skeptical of). African american’s will in my opinon never know the history of the descriptive word that preceeds american,and most of us dnt care to assimilation achieved and surpassed.

    For generations our children will only know of there american history and culture that still holds on to a sembelence of our orgin, but is steeped in slavery,poverty,genocide,the fight for the right to emulate our ancestors oppressors while our true home is looted right before our eyes.

    So I say more power to the parents that listen to that little voice with in them to give there child a name not of the norm, a name that with the proper tutilage can bestow upon them the qualitys of its meaning, even if the meaning was non-exsistent till they themselves define it like my Saneia.

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