One of my memorable experiences in the Philippines was being part of an African soccer team. I had a teammate named Boboshante. He was an excellent player and a fast runner. To keep his name short, we called him Bobo. Boboshante means religious in Kenyan slang.
In 2007, while having a match with the Philippine National Police Academy team, I noticed that their supporters were reacting every time we called Bobo. After the game, I got the explanation why. What we didn’t know was that the meaning of “Bobo” in Filipino was very different. Bobo means stupid. Our opponents and their supporters were wondering why we were calling a good player "Bobo." Poor Bobo!
You can't have a name that has the same meaning in all languages. What sounds dignified and honorable in one language may be a disrespectful or even a foul word in another.
Expect the unexpected in a multilingual setting. To be safe, have a nickname.
The usage of languages in a multicultural environment can be tricky. You can only control what you say, but not how others will understand it. Try to give their reaction the best possible positive interpretation, THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.
Matching your character to your name is more difficult than matching your name to your character. Changing your behavior is not as easy as changing your name.
Now, you know at least one Filipino word, 'BOBO.' Please don’t rush to impress your Filipino colleague with this word unless you want to have a lesson about Manny Pacquiao’s fighting techniques. I am not coming to watch.
The Bible draws our attention to meanings of names. In many cases names implied character and mission. Jacob and Esau were twins. Their mother, Rebekah, felt a wrestle in her womb during her pregnancy and wondered "Why is this happening?" Genesis 25:22, ISV. In their culture, the firstborn gets the birthright. He gets a double portion of the inheritance from the parents and becomes the leader of the family both spiritually and in managing family affairs. During birth, Jacob was holding Esau's heel as if they were competing to be born first. That is how Jacob got his name, supplanter. Supplanter means a person who tries to take another persons place treacherously. The experience was prophetic. Many years later, Jacob deceives his brother, Esau, and his elderly father, Isaac, to get the birthright and their father's blessings.
The story continues to tell us that at some point Jacob realizes his wrongdoings. True repentance always brings people closer to God. God meets Jacob in a form of a person and Jacob wrestles against the person. This time, not to treacherously take someone's place but because he didn't want to let God leave him without a blessing. God tells him, "From now on, your name will no longer be Jacob. You will be called Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won" (Genesis 32:28, CEV). What a glorious experience to have God change your name?
Looking back at your spitirutal journey and all the good things God had done in your life, what would be your new name? Why?
If God reveals himself to you like Jacob, what is the blessing you would ask of him?