data localities: Dombe

Giulio Cuccodoro giulio.cuccodoro at MHN.VILLE-GE.CH
Thu Oct 24 15:08:50 CDT 2002

>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)"

I found within seconds at least half a dozen 'Dombe', 'Domba', 'Dombi' or
'Dombo' in Angola, Mozambique, former Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe listed in
the online gazetter. Some are located apparently 'somewhere in the middle
of nowhere'. Hopefully more can be found in ancient paper Gazetters dealing
with colonial names. But who really cares...

I don't have a clue of Shona langage and have no fielwork planed to
Zimbabwe, but enjoyed the story, even if wrong. Maybe the guide of the
geographer was not talking Shona? Or the villengers questioned were
non-Shona speaking residents, or had a prononciation defect? Or the
'mountain' was only 10 metres high hump? I won't be surprised to learn that
several of such funny names made their way into the Times Atlas 2000.

By the way, this 'Dombe' apocryphal story reminds me a delightful case I
encountered recently with an Indonesian specimen collected near a
mysterious 'lake Danau'. Guess what? Danau means lake in Bahasa Indonesia...

Nobody to blame. Names picked up orally and transliterated 'at hand' were
often the only geographic landmarks available to collectors during the
pre-GPS Age. And scientists were and are fortunately still not required to
command all the langages and dialects of a given area prior propspecting it
(New Guinea would have remained a Terra incognita).

These labels are really good fun. As are these ridiculous 'scientific'
locality labels produced so often today figuring GPS coordinates to the
second of arc and elevations to the meter.

Giulio Cuccodoro                Voice   +41(0)22 418 63 90
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
C.P. 6434                       Phone   +41(0)22 418 63 00
CH-1211 Genève 6, Switzerland Fax     +41(0)22 418 63 01

Colis/parcel :
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Rte de Malagnou 1, CH-1208 Genève

The opinions expressed in this email are those of the sender, and not
necessarily those of the Natural History Museum of Geneva.

More information about the Taxacom mailing list