If you grew up as a boy in urban Ghana a few decades ago, you were likely weaned on a diet of American b-movies.
You probably recall that some of the lead actors were referred to by their nicknames rather than their real names.
The schema was fairly consistent. Some were named after their biggest blockbusters (as far as we were concerned). So Schwarzenegger became ‘Commando’ and Dolph Lundgren became ‘Red Scorpion’. Some were named after major characters they played. So Roger Moore was always called ‘James Bond’, even when he was in Wild Geese. Stallone was always ‘Rambo’ and Dhamendra Seol was always Shakar. Occasionally, we just went with some striking feature of the actor and stayed with it. Which method gave us such lovable names as “I trus my leg”, “Guy Jesus”, “Bodam Bodam” and “Yellow Man”.
You might think that this was because we simply were too lazy to look at movie credits and find the real names. Not so. For some actors we exclusively used their real names. Bruce Lee was always Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris was always Chuck Norris (no, “One Man Thousand” was another guy).
The abiding mystery for me was how these nicknames came to enjoy such widespread use, sometimes right across urban Ghana, in multiple cities.
Then I paused to reflect on the matter and concluded that Ghanaians are actually quite “cooperative” where nicknames are concerned. We welcome, comply with, and even proceed to actively promote whenever a good one pops up. Look at how enthusiastically we use ‘JJ’, ‘Kofi Wayo’, ‘Alan Cash’, ‘Super OD’, ‘Maame Dokono’ etc.
I have had the good fortune to travel around a fair bit, and I don’t see the same degree of delight in using and promoting nick names as terms of endearment.
I wonder why.