In Yoruba language one can pretty much make up any names one desires based on objects, beliefs or fantasies by combining words or letters, tonal marks on letters are to guide readers of the meaning.
This post is about Yoruba language translation of words into English.
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mi ( / )
For example: ‘Ola’ on its own has no meaning without tonal marks (àmìn), by putting àmìn on top, it is a lot easier to understand.
Àmìn is important when writing Yoruba, the tone is important when speaking. These are the basics with Yoruba language that we all agree with.
When writing, with àmìn in places, we all tend to agree on the meaning easily.
So I am a bit taken back in this particular instance where with tonal marks, people tend to give different meanings.
What is Ọlá in English?
A few weeks ago I saw somewhere online whereby Ọlá was translated as wealth in a given name.
Abiola : a child that is/was born in wealth.
If Ọlá is translated as wealth, what is Ọrọ̀?
In Yoruba ọrọ̀, owó = affluence, material wealth, money hence ọrọ̀ is wealth.
In Yoruba, there are a few names associated with wealth and money
Olówóòkéré | Owódùnní | Owósení
Names associated with wealth or money are quite few in Yoruba.
However Ọlá within a name is a very popular one because being honourable is preferred. Traditionally, having plenty of money is not the same as being a person of honour.
Ọlá as far as I know is something that is bigger than wealth. Ọlá is used to describe integrity, prestige and honour.
This is why Ọlá, Iyì, Ẹ̀yẹ are used interchangeable to mean the same thing, honour.
Based on the traditional affiliation to Ọlá in names, here are a few examples;
Ọlálérè | Ọlápade | Wúràọlá | Jọ́laolú | Ọládélé | Tóriọlá | Ọlánipẹ̀kun
All these names above have ‘ọlá’ in common. They are a few of older names to help understand the meaning of ọlá better. If we were to say ọlá = wealth, that would be a mistranslation because ọlá in Yoruba as we can see from older names is far deeper than wealth, because wealth is finite. Ọlá in Yoruba names tends to mean something that comes from family line or one that a family aspire to – bigger than material wealth.
Trying to get clarity on the best translation of ọlá to English, out of the five people I spoke with two in the first instance without any hint from me said ọlá = honour, (what a relief to know I am losing my mind) two people after we went through a few traditional names and values were convinced.
The last person likes the sound of wealth too much so adamant – who doesn’t like money?
Now checking online – incredible to see handful of people working hard on writing in Yoruba. Popular ones were names and their English translations, all that I checked out have ọlá to mean wealth. This is not too surprising because plagiarism is quite rife and it means people seldom check what they copy.
However, my efforts paid off when I found a Yoruba translation dictionary site. May Orunmila bless those behind that work.
This shows that I am not alone here thinking ọlá = honour. I don’t know the people behind this website, but a few other Yoruba words that I checked out are accurate.
Language and culture are intertwined. Like other languages, to understand Yoruba, there are many words with origin in what people hold dear, ọlá is one of those words. Not many people are wealthy or will be wealthy, whereas being noble, uprightness don’t always come with wealth and this is what tend to be common with older generation.
It is not hard to see how this mistranslation came about. Yoruba writing for decades have been pushed aside, also looking at the society today speaks volume.
Here I am with my ọlá = honour
Different point of view on English translation for ọlá? I would love to read what you think.