image source: tripadvisor.co.uk
Not so long ago during a Breakshow Show on Radio Jambo anchored by Ghost and Bramwell Mwololo (Gidi was on leave at the time), there was focus on the origin of the names of some Kenyan localities.
From the discussion had on that December morning, it was evident that names of Kenyan towns and places were inspired either by economic activities, wars or contact with colonialists.
Language barrier also contributed to the naming of most Kenyan places as some places have retained names which resulted from the mispronunciation of their original names by locals or colonialists.
For instance, the origin of the name Dagoretti is said to be a mispronunciation of the word “The Great” in reference to “The Great Corner”. However, the that theory has been disputed by another which claims that the name actually came as a result of the local Kikuyu residents disputing an illegal takeover of their land by British colonialists.
Apparently, the locals were shouting “Ndagurite” to mean “He has not bought it!”. The word later to mutated to “Dagoretti” following mispronunciation by white settlers and hence the name Dagoretti stuck.
Other places which are said to have got their names as a corruption of English words include Rumuruti (Remote Route), Ikolomani (Gold mine), Kilifi (Cliff), Roy Sambu (Royal Suburbs), Kapropita (Corporal Peter), Kariakor (Carrier Corps), Kariobangi (Carry Your Bags), Eldoret’s Sisibo (Sixty Four), Kirigiti (Cricket) and Thogoto (Scotland).
However other arguments have disputed the origins of Rumuruti and Roy Sambu as being a corruption of their similar-sounding English words. The counter-arguements perhaps reflect the impact of the Maasai’s migratory nature on the naming of Kenya towns.
Already Maasai’s are credited with giving the city of Nairobi (from the Maasai words enkare nairobi meaning “the place of cool waters”) it’s name as well nearby Limuru (from ilmur to mean “donkey droppings” in tribute or in mocking of the many donkeys that inhabit the area) and towns like Naivasha (from enaipasha to mean “lake”), Nakuru (from nakuro which means “dusty place”) and Nyahuruhuru (from enaiwurwur which means “a windy place”) the names they use today.
Such naming patterns definitely highlight the the joys and sorrows the Maasais of those ages encountered in the search for food and pasture for their animals. Such names could also come up in a bid to remember them for purposes of recommending them or warning fellow tribesmen from heading to such places.
The need to make giving directions easier could have also inspired such names. For instance a Maasai directing a fellow Maasai from Nakuru to Nairobi would easily say mention a lake, a place of donkey dropping and a place of cool waters. The traveling will find it easier to get his way to Nairobi by using such names since the reflect observable features of the areas they will pass through and their destination.
For Rumuruti the purpose seems different however seeing that the word is said to have its origin in the Maasai name olmuruti which means a short cut. The same does not go for Roy Sambu however which is alleged to have borrowed its name from the Maasai words esoit sambu to mean “a place of grey rocks.”
There are however no disputes to the origins of the name Kirigiti where locals first encounter with the sport of cricket gave birth to a name that has been used to identify the place since then. Kirigiti came up as a result of locals finding it difficult to pronunce “cricket”.