Sunday, 31 January 2016

Republic of Congo Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time the Republic of Congo and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital. Confusion with the previous look at the cities of the Democratic Republic of Congo is understandable, the two are separated by the river common to both names, said river also all that divides the two capital cities - albeit a very wide river.

Brazzaville was founded on September 10th 1880 by the explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, who clearly gave his name to the place. There had been a Bateke village named Nkuna here previously but the French Empire wanted this site as a statement to defy the Belgian-occupied Leopoldville across the river., today known as Kinshasa.

Pointe-Noire is also clearly French and means 'black point'. However the name already existed, named by Portuguese navigators who used the headland of black rocks as a maritime marker and knew it as Ponta Negra.

Dolisie was founded to function as a link between the ocean and the railway, indeed initially this had been little more than a station, albeit an important one. It is named after a lieutenant of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, one Albert Dolisie.

Nkayi was the original name of the settlement which became Jacob in 1887, this the French engineer who surveyed the route for the Congo-Ocean Railway. It changed back to its native name in 1975. This may well share an origin with the district of Nkayi in Matebeleland, in which case this could mean 'where are you going'. However a question for a place name would be most unusual, possibly unique, and thus perhaps this is a misinterpretation and should be 'where you are going'.

Pool is a department named after the Pool Malebo, at 14 miles across a very wide stretch of the Congo. It had previously been known as the Stanley Pool after explorer Henry Morton Stanley. Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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