The stories behind names of places

I’ve been fascinated by the origin of words for as long as I can remember. That the English language has liberally borrowed from so many others was no secret to me. After all, we’re as comfortable with rendezvous and a-la-carte as we are with tsunami and hoi polloi. Did you know that the word ‘language’ owes its origin to the Latin word ‘lingua’, which means ‘tongue’? Etymology is a strange and intriguing business indeed.

But what about the names of places? Why is Scandinavia called that and nothing else? Then there is the confusing matter of places being called different names in different tongues. I found out, as a child, that Mumbai is called thus because of its resident goddess Mumbadevi. Her shrine is located in the busy lanes of Kalbadevi, South Mumbai. The erstwhile Bombay is of course a British distortion.

Anyhow, we have long been contemplating an Instagram series on a topic of interest. And starting today (18th April, 2017), everyday, we will post an image of a place we’ve been to, along with the story behind its name. With each post, we will leave a clue to the next day’s destination. Play the #NamesofPlaces game with us on Instagram and Facebook and discover anew the mystery of language. We look forward to your feedback and participation.

The story thus far

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Day 1, #NamesofPlaces: Varkala, a tiny temple town in #Kerala Meaning: Varkala derives from Valkalam, a loin cloth made from the bark of a tree. According to local lore, a group of pilgrims approached Sage Narada and confessed that they had sinned. The sage then threw his valkalam and it landed at a seaside spot. He asked the pligrims to offer prayers at that beach. Thus, Varkala is also known as Papanasam or 'redemption from sins'. Photo: Hidden beneath a majestic cliff is the untouched #beach of #Varkala, a haven for European tourists and an unparalleled delight to witness. Accustomed as we were to the murky waters and littered sands of Mumbai beaches, we were spellbound by the bright white #water of the Varkala sea. In the peak of the sunlit day, the sky lent an azure glow to the water and under the starlit night, the beach became completely deserted, save for a daring soul or two who ventured for a moonlit walk by the dark, impenetrable #sea. Clue for Day 2: A city in Kerala where Chinese fishing nets are unfurled each evening. We look forward to your guesses and comments 🙂 #trailstainedfingers #seaside #waves #turquoise #beauty #nature #travel #travelphoto #traveldiaries #traveller #travelblogger #travelporn #photooftheday #picoftheday #beautiful #follow #followforfollow #influencer #iger #photography #memories #India #incredibleindia #lonelyplanet

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Day 2, #NamesofPlaces: Fort Kochi (#Cochin), #Kerala Meaning: The 'Fort' comes from Fort Emmanuel, which the Portuguese built close to the waterfront to safeguard their commercial interests. The Rajah allowed it after they helped him defeat the forces of Saamoothiri of Kozhikode. Later, this fort was destroyed by the Dutch. Kochi or Cochin can be split into Co-chin, meaning 'like-China'. This could refer to the #Chinese #fishing #nets that the Chinese brought in the 14th century or the region's physical resemblance to China. Photo: I was on my own during my last day in Fort #Kochi. For those precious few hours, I indulged in my fantasy of writing by the #seaside, with the breeze and the foreign tongues in the air providing more than enough stimulation. On my back to the homestay, I encountered #local fishermen unfurling these #beautiful Chinese fishing nets for the day's catch. Every day, fresh fish is auctioned off to eager buyers. Clue for Day 3: An erstwhile French colony, that's now a Union Territory of India. We look forward to your guesses and comments 🙂 #trailstainedfingers #travel #traveler #travels #traveller #traveldiary #traveldiaries #India #IncredibleIndia #lonelyplanet #memories #trip #holiday #southindia #fortkochi #evening #dusk #sunset #sea #fishingnets

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