data localities: Dombe

Mark Hyde (Pentact) mahyde at PENTACT.CO.ZW
Thu Oct 24 11:16:28 CDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sean Edwards" <mzfses at MAIL1.MCC.AC.UK>
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: data localities: Dombe

> OK, more a question than a contribution. Maybe somebody can
> put me right on a probable rural myth relating to data localities.  In
> the eastern districts of Zimbabwe, there are several mountains/hills
> called Dombe, and I was told the story (quite likely apocryphal)
> that this name was written down by European map makers when
> asking members of the local population what the mountain was
> called.  Dombe was later revealed to mean "I don't know", or "I
> don't understand you" (or maybe something a little blunter?).
> There's a similar story attached to Kangaroos, I believe, and no
> doubt dozens of other words.

As a long-time resident of Zimbabwe, I had never heard of this so I
canvassed a few opinions from various friends. Here is a copy of one reply I
received, which suggests that the story may indeed be apocryphal.


I don't think there is any truth in the story.  I know of no mountain or
in the Eastern Highlands called Dombe, but there is a prominent mountain
Mt Dombo (altitude 2005 m).  It is located southwest of Inyangani, approx
latitude 18 deg 17 min South, approx longitude 32 deg 28 min East.  It is
on the 1:1 000 000 map of Zimbabwe and would appear in the northeastern
of the 1:50 000 map series 1832A4.

The Shona word dombe is used to convey the idea of softening by soaking, and
the Shona noun dombe, or mudombe, means a poor person, or a beggar.  It is
certainly not used to mean "I don't know", so I really don't know how this
apocryphal story gained any sort of currency.

Lyn (Mullin)"

Mark Hyde

More information about the Taxacom mailing list