by tonyleather on 27/04/11 at 4:52 pm
When you want to get somewhere, as a tourist, you would consult maps and ask questions of local people, normally, but what if the destination you had in mind was a place whose proper name was beyond your ability to pronounce?
There are some places in the world that you might want to get to, but could never ask for directions because ot the difficulty of simply pronouncing the names of your intended destinations. Everyone in the UK has heard of the Welsh village, on the isle of Anglesey, of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – a truly unpronounceable, 51 letter mouthful, in the Welsh language- 58 in English – which translates literally to Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave.
No less difficult to utter is the full name of Lake Chaubunagungamaug, MA, which, in the Nipmuc language, translated as Fishing Place at the Boundaries — Neutral Meeting Grounds is written thus – Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg – a 45 utterly unspeakable letter combination that would twist the most skilful tonue.
Next on the least is a location in South Africa, known locally as TweeBuffels, though the full, 42 letter Afrikaans name is – Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein – translated quite literally as The spring where two buffaloes were cleanly killed with a single shot. Oddly enough, you could not find this place on any map, because, though said to be located west of Pretoria by some 200km, nobody has actually any idea how to find the place.
Should you have thought, even for a moment, that these names presented a certain difficulty in terms of pronunciation, you literally ain’t seen nothing yet, believe me. Just try to imagine attempting to get your poor tongue around this 85 letter monstrosity, in the language of the Maori people of New Zealand. Known by locals as Taumata, the place named –Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu – which means, believe it or not, The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one, and is officially ranked as the longest place name on earth.
The Guinness Book of World Records would, however, dispute this claim, because, in the language of the Thai people, the city we all know as Bangkok, capitol city of Thailand, is represented as – Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit
These 167 letters, a phrase that even Thai residents would have difficulty in actually pronouncing, translate to – The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma – no wonder the Guinness Book of Records regard this as the longest place name on the globe.
These might not be the most memorable of place names, and chances are you will never want to visit any of them, but just imagining trying to ask directions, using the proper names, is enough to make even the most seasoned traveler shudder. Five fearsome place names, by any standards.