Vietnamese culture: The origins of some provinces’ names in southern Vietnam (Part 1)

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Learning Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City – Live in Vietnamese

The origins of some provinces’ names in southern Vietnam

In Southern Vietnam, especially in the Mekong Delta, Vietnamese and Khmer people live together, therefore, their cultures have had some effect on each others. This can be seen in the names of some places. Some of these sound Vietnamese but in fact, they were derived from original Khmer names:

1. Cần Thơ

As a researcher, when we contrast the name “Cần Thơ” with its original Khmer one “Prek Rusey” (sông tre – river of bamboos), though we find there’s no relation between them phonetically, we can’t hastily conclude that “Cần Thơ” is totally Vietnamese and try to find its meaning from 2 understandable Sino-Vietnamese words “Cần” and “Thơ”.

The two words “Cần Thơ” aren’t Sino-Vietnamese words and they’re nonsensical.

If we search it following those toponyms which are changed into Vietnamese, we can see that the phonetics of the word “Cần Thơ” is very close to Khmer one “Kìntho”, this is a kind of fish which is very popular in Cantho (Cần Thơ), it’s usually called “snakeskin gourami”, but in Ben Tre, people call it “cá lò tho”.

From this, we can collect some documents about the history and daily activities of ancient Khmer who used to live here in the past, then we come to the following conclusion: the name “Cần Thơ” comes from the Khmer word “Kìntho”.

2.  Mỹ Tho

Similarly, if we examine 2 words “Mỹ” and “Tho” separately, we will find that “Mỹ Tho” has no Vietnamese meaning.

According to some documents about the history and daily activities of ancient Khmer who used to live here, it could be defined that this place used to be called “Srock MỳXó” (the place where beautiful girls live). Now we call it “Mỹ Tho”; we deleted the word “Srock” and changed the last word slightly.

To be continued…

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