Old Person Questions Richard

The new year has galloped off to a great start. My new novel was released (in Dutch) on Tuesday and I spent first week of the year tossing and turning in sleepless anticipation of the radio and TV interviews I babbled my way through on Wednesday. Whenever I have to answer questions about my books, I’m instantly transformed into a squirrel on a trampoline, surrounded by nuts, bouncing around, grabbing and dropping ideas faster than the human eye can see. Comical, but not very effective.

Fortunately, I’m a lot less frantic when I write. Which brings me to the somewhat odd title of this blog: “Old Person Questions Richard”. This is not only a reference to my mother’s recent visit to Holland, during which she questioned my sanity on several occasions (“Are you mad, boy?”), but also a nifty introduction of today’s topic, which is the origin of the names of KLM destinations beginning with the letters O, P, Q and R.

Once again, I’ve decided to illustrate my blog with album covers featuring the names of the cities in question. Why? Because album covers are cool and weird, and because it’s fun to find Finnish people singing about Paramaribo and to discover that Deep Sweden released an album called Maiden Prague.

So, without further ado: Yoga Fire! And off we go.

Oslo: The name of the Norwegian capital is thought to mean “the meadow beneath the ridge” or “the meadow of the gods”, which sounds like a great place to build a city.

Panama: According to Panamanian textbooks, the name Panama means “abundance of fish, trees and butterflies”. But the name is also thought to derive from the Kuna word “bannaba”, meaning “far away”.

Paramaribo: The name of the Surinamese capital is thought to derive from the word “Parmurbo”, meaning “city of flowers”.

Paris: The French capital gets its name from the Parisii, the Gaulish tribe that first settled on the banks of the river Seine. Their name probably derived from the Celtic Gallic word “parisio”, meaning “the working people” or “the craftsmen”.

Phillipsburg: The capital of the island of St Maarten is named after John Philips, vice-commander of the Dutch colonial forces, who was actually Scottish.

Prague: The name “Praha” (“Praga” in Old Czech) means “ford”, referring to the crossing point on the Vltava river where the Czech capital originated.

Quito: The Ecuadorian capital, officially San Francisco de Quito, takes its name from the Quitu tribe that established the first commercial centre  in the Guayllabamba river basin.

Rio de Janeiro: This famous Brazilian port was named “January River” by explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who first encountered the site on 1 January 1502.

Rome: The most convincing explanation of the origin of the Italian capital’s name is that it derives from the Umbrian “Ruma”, meaning “(town of) flowing waters”. The River Tiber, which runs through Rome, was apparently known as the Rumon in ancient times.

If you’re a resident of Ornskoldsvik, Prairie Du Chien, Qaquortoq, Reykjavik or any other place beginning with O, P, Q or R, feel free to post a comment explaining the origin of the name. And if you’re feeling hyper-creative, why not come up a more interesting title than “Old Person Questions Richard”.