As It Happens

Namibian town to change name from Lüderitz to !Nami≠nüs

Some residents in Lüderitz, Namibia say plans to change the town's name to !Nami≠nüs will render their town unpronounceable to the outside world -- and even to many people who live there.
(Namibia Tourism Website)

It was the first question. As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong's asked Lüderitz resident Crispin Clay if he could pronounce the new name of the town he's lived in for forty years. Clay's answer: "I wish I could..."

Click 'listen' above to hear Crispin Clay's attempt to say the name.

It seems many in the town are having trouble with the tongue twister, which comes from the local Nama language, and incorporates click-like sounds that require verbal gymnastics for those who aren't native speakers. 

Spelling the new name is another challenge. In order to denote the tongue clicking sounds, it uses some unusual written symbols. The accepted version is !Nami≠nü.

The Namibian government says it has good reason for the change. The town is currently named after a German tobacco merchant, Adolf Lüderitz, who bought the town while it was a German colony from 1884 to 1919. Naturally, he named it after himself. Recently, Namibia has been making efforts to break with its dark colonial past -- and adopt names that reflect the local people and language. 

But Clay says people in Lüderitz feel they have not been properly consulted about the change. "This has been done over the heads of the residents of Lüderitz past and present," he says.  "[They] deeply resent the idea that we should have a name imposed on us without taking a vote on it."