27 July 2009
(The dog in the picture would most often be called 'Gitom' (Black) in Dusun :-))
The Dusuns name their children based on physical characteristics or habits. Once upon a time, babies used to be named based upon their perceived physical characteristics when they were born. (Some of the names are unisex). For example, a small baby would be named 'Koro' or 'Kodo' (small)(which is unisex), thus my late grandmother's name. My late grandfather was named 'Kurupong', meaning 'folded earlobes' or something like that. A chubby baby girl would be named 'Kumbo' (chubby). A colic baby (who keeps crying) would get the name 'Logihad' (always crying). A person with a squint was often called 'sandud' (lazy-eyed). A fat baby would be 'mombon', 'gombon' and the likes, meaning'fat' (and these are unisex names too). That was the naming tradition in the olden days.
It was also common practice to change a person's name at any stage of their life because of sickness, tragedy or even bad dreams. Of course in order to do this, the family of the person whose name was to be changed would have to consult a bobolian (shamman) or a wise elder. Thus, it was common to hear a person whose name(s) used to be so and so before.
With modernization, came changes that also affected the naming tradition. Thus, English and Arabic names are adopted, depending on the religion on the people. Often, the Dusuns still maintain Dusun nicknames for their family though. This is normally done by Dusunizing the sounds of the real names, for examle a Mary would be called 'Moiri', and a 'Hafiz' becomes 'Hapis' :-) That again, depends on how able the family members are in pronouncing foreign sounds. Chances are, the grandparents won't be able to and they are the ones who normally start the nicknaming. It must also be mentioned that nicknames based on physical characteristics are still maintained these days, at least within the household of the family members!
Currently, though, there seems to be a trend to go back to tradition. The younger parents often add Dusun names in their children's birth certificates, along with the modern names. (Hmm...why didn't I think of that when naming my kids?) I wonder if this is the result of being deprived of traditions, or simply a commendable going-back-to-the-root practice?