Every city has a story behind its name. Some stories are historical due to significant events or situations related to that area. Some derived their names from famous personalities, real or mythological, while some from the people who settled there. Some names were the original ones, while some evolved over time. For example: Mumbai derived its name from the local goddess Mumbadevi, while the city’s colonial-era name, Bombay, is believed to have derived from the Portuguese word for ‘Good Bay’, after the Portuguese arrived. Buenos Aires comes from the Spanish word for ‘Good Air’, after the fresh, undiluted air of the open Steppes. Ho Chi Minh City is named after the famous Vietnamese statesman. Singapore basically means ‘Land of the Lion’. This word has connections to the Indian language, probably an impact of the Indian labour that moved there to work in the plantations in the Malay peninsula. Had the Americans arrived in Singapore earlier, it might have been known as Rafflesville today after Sir Stanford Raffles. Dhaka is believed to have got its name from the ancient Dhakeshwari Temple, built by Bengal’s Sen dynasty. Islamabad comes from the words Islam and Abad. Abad means place or base, hence Islamabad connotes Place of Islam. Kathmandu derives its name from Kaath ka Mandap, the Hindi word for “wood-covered structure”, a famed structure in the city’s historical Durbar Square complex. Boston and New York get their names from the English towns of Boston and York respectively, possibly the origins of the settlers who migrated to those areas. Kolkata gets its name from the three villages that originally occupied that area. Rome is named after Romulus, the founder of the new city. Leopoldville, the original name of modern-day Kinshasa, is after Belgium’s King Leopold, after the Belgians colonized central Africa.
But these are derivations that are known to be essentially true. Some other derivations can be thought of by stretching the human imagination, even if the results might be grossly inaccurate (and sometimes a tad offensive). For example: one might say that Warsaw is thus name because it ‘Saw many Wars’. That might well be true, if one looks at Polish history in the 20th century. The name Kuala Lumpur might be so if Lumpur meant Bear in Bahasa Malaya. Perhaps Koala Bears migrated to Australia along with the hordes of P.R. seekers. Madras, the earlier name of Chennai, was perhaps because everyone was in a Mad-Rush to see Superstar Rajnikant’s movies. Cairo’s origin ‘Qahira’, might well be a derivative of quarry. That may not be surprising if digging all the rocks to build the mighty Pyramids resulted in deep quarries in the Egyptian countryside. The fact that Maldives has always had men as its Head of State, probably resulted in its capital being called Male. Most US cities have names similar to several European or Asian cities. Perhaps the Americans had already forecasted that the US Military would eventually be present in several countries due to the Cold-war, Terror-war, etc. Hence, it made sense to have recognizable names as it would make life easier while writing home. Johannesburg (i.e. Place of Johannes) gives a sense of exclusivity. Whoever Johannes was, there is no other town on earth whose name comes even close to Johannes. This sense of exclusivity possibly seems in line with South Africa’s Apartheid history, when the whites tried to show themselves as an exclusive group. Kingston means King’s Town, which sounds cool. That may make sense since everything about the Jamaicans is cool – their music, rum or cricketers. Lucknow sounds appropriate, considering life seems to run totally on luck in the UP badlands. Breaking the name of Lahore into two-parts would suggest the profession practiced by ‘loose women’. But that would be downright offensive and hence, my sincere apologies in advance for this horrible twist of the English language. Moscow is possibly from ‘Moss-Cow’. The bitter cold probably pushes its milkmen into hibernation during the winter, and hence this prolonged non-usage leads to the cows developing moss around the shady udder-area as it got dampened by snow-slush. Paris probably got its name from the ‘purring’ sound lovers are supposed to make when talking fancy-nothings to each other in a romantic setting. That might explain why it is called the City of Love. Canberra is where the Aussies have cans of beer (or maybe cans of berries). Berlin probably got its name from the music band of the famed hit, Take my Breath Away. In some ways, that’s precisely what the World-war and Cold-war did to the city. Japanese names like Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki were probably what the Judo and Karate masters screamed at each other to scare the opponent away. Dakar means burp in Hindi and it’s a bit mysterious how Senegal in west Africa named its city after the Hindi word for burp. Phnom Penh was probably where Sean Penn’s great-great-grandfather was born. Ouagadougou was probably named thus because its numerous military coups made its governments’ tenures ‘all-ouagadougou’. Dubai sounds fancy when you pronounce it as ‘Dubaaayy’, by extending the second part. That might be okay since everything about Dubai is fancy – glittering buildings, reclaimed islands and city-sized malls. Hong Kong was probably where King Kong loved climbing Centrals’ skyscrapers. The less said the better about Dildo and Intercourse, cities in Canada and USA respectively. There might be similar other inaccurate (and offensive) derivations one might make from other cities in this world.
But this brings us to the actual topic – how did Bangkok get its name? Some suggest the name is after its famous (or infamous) lady-boys, who pose as women. Some suggest its because it’s a cheaper alternative to Amsterdam for tourists. Both suggestions sound offensive, considering it is a place with rich history, culture, serenity and scenery. There are connections of the word Bangkok to the Makok fruit or Koh islands, though these remain unclear. The actual origin of the name still remains a puzzle!
(Story reported by our special correspondent Sourajit Aiyer. By the way, moderator of this site ‘Charlie’ is banging his head after reading and publishing this story.)
Via: Indian Satire