History and Culture Musings

Victoria vs Mosi-oa-Tunya: What’s in a name?

Photo source: Gareth Bentley Photography
Photo source: Gareth Bentley Photography

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly ended yesterday. Zambia and Zimbabwe were co-hosting the five day event in the border towns of Livingstone (in Zambia) and Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe) respectively. Hundreds of delegates descended on the two towns adding to the thousands of tourists that visit each year.

The world-famous Victoria Falls are the main attraction of these two towns and this part of Southern Africa. The falls were named after British Queen Victoria by Scottish medical missionary David Livingstone. Coincidentally, this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. He is believed to have been the first European to have seen the falls. The falls have another name – Mosi oa Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders” – but are known chiefly by the name Victoria.

Just out of interest, why do you think both countries have kept use of the name Victoria over Mosi oa Tunya for their most famous tourist attraction? Could it be because Victoria is perceived to be a much easier name to pronounce for tourists and for marketing purposes? Is it more of a money spinner for that reason? Should ease of pronunciation matter at all!? Maybe policymakers on either side of the Zambezi just don’t consider a change of name one of their priorities? And maybe they are right. 

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts. What do you think?



One reply on “Victoria vs Mosi-oa-Tunya: What’s in a name?”

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