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These court messengers were greatly hated in Umuofia because they were foreigners and also arrogant and high-handed. They were called kotma, and because of their as-colored shorts they earned the additional name of Ashy-Buttocks. (20.16)
Here we see a linguistic phenomenon that occurs when two languages collide. The Igbo people who are unfamiliar with English find it difficult to say “court messenger” so they shorten it to make it easier and to fit their own lexicon. However, the word kotma doesn’t convey their intense hatred, so they choose a particularly unique and shameful trait of the kotma – their khaki shorts – and build a mocking nickname.
[Obierika]: “In the end Oduche died and Aneto was taken to Umuru and hanged. The other people were released, but even now they have not found the mouth with which to tell of their suffering.”
The two men sat in silence for a long time afterwards. (20.28-29)
Words are inadequate to express the full intensity of the people’s suffering in Obierika’s story. Okonkwo and Obierika, too, are stunned and saddened beyond words.
He [Mr. Brown] had just send Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, who was now called Isaac, to the new training college for teachers in Umuru. (21.22)
To signal his break from his old heathen ways (and probably his father), Nwoye changes his name to Isaac in an attempt to change his identity and Christianize himself.