The naming dilemma


So if you follow the Instagram feed, you will surely know by now that we are the proud owners of a wonderful French bulldog, born 8 months ago on the South African soil, bred & trained through regular feedings of billtong (the South African dried meet) and Royal Canin.

Thabo is a wonderful dog. Kind and loving, he’s now the reason we’re rushing back home every day after work. Besides, you’ll never find a more playful animal. He literally runs and jumps everywhere, in this kind of “olympic-long-jump-gold-medal-winner” kind of style that makes him the daily attraction of the park.


But apart from his good mood and his jumping abilities, Thabo is also well-known for his not-so-common name, which led us to our famous naming dilemma.

We named our dog Thabo one evening of load shedding, sitting at a Nando’s table, looking at African names on the internet. We wanted to give our dog a local name, as a mean to honour the country we’re now living in. A name that sounded sweet to the ears, that our French and Spanish families would be able to pronounce, and with a particular meaning. So we came across Thabo, the short version of Lethabo, which means Joy or Happiness in many local languages, and liked it from the start. By the time we had finished our dinner, the decision was taken. Our dog would be named Thabo.

We started to notice that something was wrong the day we picked up the dog. When the lady told us his current name was Apollo, and asked us if we wanted to change it, we said “yes, of course, his name is Thabo”, which was received by a rather disappointing smile that looked more like a grimace than anything else.


Doubt was on the rise the following day at the vet clinic. When the lady at the reception, who had been rather excited about the puppy, asked us for his name to register him in the computer, the silence she left falling between us when typing down his name sounded like a harsh accusation.

These were small hints. But we had the confirmation that there was something really wrong the day we took him to the park for the first time. A rather grumpy old lady, who owns a pack of ill-behaved Frenchies, naturally asked us for his name. “Thabo” we said very proudly, as if he was the 8th world wonder. “Ah, okay….. Well, if you like it….” That answer just broke our heart.


So we asked our friends was what the big deal with our dog’s name. To which they answered that indeed, giving an African name to a dog could be misinterpreted. During the apartheid, dogs were often better treated than Black people. So naming our dog Thabo could be considered as an offense by many people. The fact that we had chosen the name of a previous Black president (how unlucky of us: they are not that many…) didn’t help either.

We ruminated over this sad news for quite some time. Did we really have to change his name? For days, we tried to change his name by either looking for totally different names, or by trying similar ones, like Tibo or Tobo. But that was not the same: these big eyes of his were our Thabo, and nothing else. So we finally decided we couldn’t care less. And now, every time we go to the park, whenever an old lady starts pulling faces at the sound of his name, Thabo greets them with his grumpy face and judging eyes. That’s how we know he’s our boy!

3 thoughts on “The naming dilemma

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