If there is one thing that Kenya and South Africa have in common, it is the choice of weird and funny names of towns and villages. When you travel within the two countries, whether just to explore during a road trip or for work, you will notice that many of their places are named after the person who founded them or a local feature, but that other bizarre names took some imagination and a sense of humor to craft them.
Today, we look at some of these names.
Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein, North West Province, South Africa
We start off with perhaps one of the longest and hard-to-pronounce names of a place, located about 200 km west of Pretoria and 20 km east of Lichtenburg. Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein is the name of a farm, whose 44-character name has entered South African folk tales. The name, which follows a common format for Afrikaans-language roughly translated into English means ‘Two buffalo shot dead in one shot spring.” The farm has become a bit of a legend in Afrikaans traditional stories and is often used to depict typical farm culture in South Africa. So, if you live in South Africa or happen to visit, make it a point to visit Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein.
Dagoretti Corner, Nairobi, Kenya
This place was originally known as “The Great Corner.” The locals could not pronounce it correctly and the corrupted version became ‘Dagoretti Corner,’ which was directly from ‘The Great Corner,’ which has stuck to this day. The Great Corner was the site of the first airfield in Kenya; a patchy grass runway around the present Meteorological Department. The Great Corner, or Dagoretti Corner, is one of the most popular places in Nairobi serving ‘nyama choma,’ a favorite delicacy for many in the country.
Pofadder, Northern Cape, South Africa
Pofadder is a small town in Northern Cape in South Africa. It derives its name from one of the most dangerous snakes, the Puff adder. Pofadder is Afrikaans for Puff adder. Mostly cited as the epitome of ‘the middle of nowhere,’ many people are not aware of the fact that it actually exists. However, In spite of its small size, it is an important local center in the region known in South Africa as Bushmanland. The surrounding districts are arid, sparsely populated, rugged, and picturesque.
Rumuruti; Laikipia, Kenya
Rumuruti is a town in Laikipia County about 40 km north of Nyahururu Town in Central Kenya. When white settlers came to the country, the town was on the route from Nyahururu to Maralal towns, which were preferred destinations for many settlers. They referred to the road between the two settlements as a “Remote route.” The corrupted version of this then became Rumuruti, the town name as we know it today. The town was featured in the Hollywood film ‘King Solomon’s Mines,’ as some of the shots were filmed in the town.
Tietiesbaai; Western Cape, South Africa
Located on the West Coast’s Paternoster in Cape Town, South Africa, Tietiesbaai, the name loosely translated means ‘Boobies Bay.’ Sounds like an interesting thing to call a beautiful beach with large, round, and smooth boulders, right? But, how did the town end up with the name? Some believe that the name came from two rounded boulders seen when approaching the town; however, this is not the case. Rather, it was more likely named after someone. There are two possibilities – The first is that the town was named after a Frenchman, Jacques Titius (Titius se Baai), who was a colonial trader on the West Coast, but the name changed over time. The second possibility is that it was named after a sailor named Titus who drowned in the area.
Kariokor; Nairobi, Kenya
This little suburb in Nairobi derives its name from the colonial era. During the First World War, a contingent of Africans were in the British Army as carrying luggage. The Carrier Corps, as they were known, provided military labor to support the British campaign against the German military forces in East Africa, commanded by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. Their base of operation is the suburb known as Kariokor today. The locals simply called the place ‘Carrier Corps, which with a local dialect influence that sounded like ‘Kariako,’ and it’s still called by that name today. Today, the area has one of the largest open-air markets for local handcrafts and eateries that sell a wide range of local cuisines.
Darling; Western Cape, South Africa
Located about 75 km from Cape Town in the inland West Coast farming area, Darling Town is, for all intents and purposes, really quite darling. Settled among wheat fields, vineyards, and pastures, it provides a charming and refreshing break from the big city. Adding to the sweetness is the fact that it is also home to South Africa’s favorite auntie – Tannie Evita. The town is part of the Cape Floral Region and home to hundreds of species of flowering plants. The Darling Museum, in the 1899 Town Hall, traces local history, including the 19th Century butter industry. Just outside town, West Coast National Park’s Langebaan Lagoon attracts migrating water birds such as flamingos and white pelicans. Darling is also famous for hosting ‘Rocking the Daisies,’ South Africa’s biggest green rock festival every September/October.
Thogoto; Kiambu, Kenya
The Church of Scotland Mission was the first mission to settle in the now little town near Kikuyu in Kiambu County. The local Kikuyu Community could not pronounce the name Scotland easily and they would pronounce it as “Thogoto,” and thus the name ‘Thogoto’ was born. Today, the town has maintained the name ‘Thogoto,’ and that PCEA Church of the Torch, one of the oldest mission churches, still stands.
Translated to English, the name ‘Dronkylei’ means Drunk Marsh. So, how did the town get such a unique name? Might it be because of its alcohol-loving residents? No, it was not. The area has a marsh area where a poisonous grass grew. Although the grass was not deadly, when cattle grazed there, it made them light-headed, making them look drunk while walking around. That is how the town earned the name Dronkylei.
Matayos; Busia, Kenya
In Busia County in Western Kenya, there is a small trading center called ‘Matayos,’ which, according to residents, derived its name from a European. During the colonial period, a European trader by the name of Mathew moved to the area. The residents referred to him as ‘Mathayo,’ which is the Kiswahili version of Mathew. However, in Luhya, the local dialect of the area, the name was pronounced as ‘Matayo.’ Today, Matayos is one of the new constituencies and busy market center in the region.