Sunday, 14 February 2016

Cote d’Ivoire 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 Cote d'Ivoire and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Yamoussoukro was known as N'Gokro when the French brought the first colonists here in 1929. Under the helm of Queen Yamousso, this village of just 429 inhabitants found itself at the centre, but not part of, unrest which seemed destined to result in war. However when this was averted, with Queen Yamousso playing no small part, the name was changed to honour her and now numbers over 350,000 inhabitants.

Abengourou is held to be from the Akan language where n'pe kro means 'I don't like long discussions', so we'll leave it at that.

Abidjan requires a rather longer explanation. Tradition maintains this is from a misunderstanding where an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house meets with a European explorer who asks him the name of his village. The old man did not understand the words but thought he was being asked what he was doing there, and so his reply of min-chan m'bidjan was recorded as Abidjan. However what the old man had actually said in the Ebrie language was "I just cut the leaves".

Bingerville is, as we would suspect with such a suffix, named after an individual. Louis-Gustave Binger was the French colonial governor who raised the profile of this sleepy market town in the early 20th century.

Bouake is named for the Bouale people, their name coming from a legend. Led from Ghana to this region by Queen Pokou, fleeing the Ashanti, they arrived at the Komoe river which they could not cross. With the enemy bearing down on them they thought throwing their most treasured possession into the river would save them. The queen was last and threw her son into the waters, whereupon a great number of hippopotamuses rose to the surface to create a bridge and allowed them to cross. Reaching the other side she gave the people their name when she spoke just one word, baouli or 'the child is dead'.

Jacqueville, despite its French spelling, does not its name to French occupation but marks the raising of the Union Jack when the British first landed here.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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