vernacular names

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Jul 24 10:05:34 CDT 2003

In the early 20th century, Evelyn Waugh wrote a novel called Scoop.  It involves an English reporter who is sent to Africa to cover a manufactured revolution.  The natives of the fictional country, when asked about the locality of the capital, replied, in their own language, "I don't know".  This became the name of the capital for all subsequent news stories filed with the home office.  Could this be the origin of the myth below?


Sean Edwards wrote:

> Yes, this one has come up before; I put the following query to TAXACOM on "Wednesday, October 23, 2002 2:38 AM" ...
> "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."

Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

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