What is the significance of the Kikongo word nommo and its attendant concepts of being and naming?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Adah explains that Nelson has taught her the Kikongo word nommo, meaning "word." It is the force that "makes things live as what they are" (page 209). Adah explains that this concept helps her understand herself and her twin sister, Leah. Though they came from the same egg and are identical, they are very different. The idea that a name creates one's existence helps her understand why she and her twin sister are so different. This concept also helps Adah understand why her father, Nathan Price, is a failure as a preacher in the Congo. She writes, "his failures are deficiencies with words" (page 213). He grows frustrated and speaks in what she refers to as "half-baked Kikongo," thereby alienating his audience because he doesn't understand that their names for things affect their conception of them and their reality. For example, in the Kikongo language, the word for "baptism" is very similar to the word for "terrify." Nathan has not concentrated on this difference, so he often gets it wrong. Therefore, the concept of naming is closely allied to the concept of being, and not understanding this concept means that Nathan will not understand the people he is preaching to.

Read the study guide:
The Poisonwood Bible

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question