I want to talk a little about the names in Cambodia, in the first article I mentioned that the name of the neighboring island is pronounced and written differently by Koh Rong Samloy, Koh Rong Sanloem, Koh Rong Samlem and so on. This is not the only example of some confusion in the names.

Most likely, this is due to the fact that the Khmer language, having a simple grammar, has a very complicated pronunciation. This is not a tonal language, unlike Chinese or Vietnamese, but to pronounce all the words correctly is almost impossible. For example, a nearby beach is named for the village located there. You can come across Kon Touch, Koh Tot, Koh Tout and all the like, but I want to say right away that none of the options even closely conveys the Khmer name. By the way, this phrase translates as “Small Island” – indeed, a small island is located directly opposite the village. Basically, the word “koh” sounds something like Khmer, as you might guess, it means “island”. But the second word meaning “small” does not seem at all. The last consonant sound does not resemble either “ch” or “t”, more precisely, it resembles either one or the other, but it is neither one nor the other. And it is pronounced vaguely, swallowed, so to speak.

This is just one example. And there are a lot of such sounds in the Khmer language. How many times have I tried to reproduce an intricate sound under the guidance of someone from the local … After a good hundred attempts, I had to state that I simply do not have such muscles in my tongue that would allow me to approach the correct pronunciation.

But back to the names. The first maps of Cambodia were made by the French, of course, the names on the maps were written in accordance with the rules of the French language. Then, already on the basis of these cards, cards with the English transcription were made, but this was already a transcription of French names. Therefore, many names have lost their original meaning and it is impossible to translate the names, how many do not torture the locals, they simply do not recognize the Khmer words. No, the names of some islands retained their meaning, for example, Koh Dec Kool Island (Nail Island), a small island one and a half kilometers from the coast, named for its small size, Koh Ta – Tray Island, got its name for its regular ellipsoidal shape. Kho Pu – Snake Island. But I failed to translate the name of our island, the locals evade the answer, it is clear that they do not understand what it is about.

Some islands got the wrong name. A striking example is the island of Koh Prin. Among divers and tourists it is usually called Koch Prince, although no princes were ever close there. The fact is that many trees grow on this island, the fruits of which, small black berries, are called “prin”. The fact is that Khmers usually cannot utter a hissing or whistling sound at the end of a word, such is the pronunciation feature. That is, when some foreigners asked the locals for the name of the island, the answer was: “Koch Prin” and the Europeans perceived it as “Koch Prince” with an unpronounced sound at the end. So the island became a prince, although, I repeat, no princes here were ever mentioned.

A funny story turned out with the name of the village on Koh Rong Samloem, it is called Mpei Bey. Many people believe that the village received this name from the name of a small bay on the shore of which it is located, these people believe that this bay is called Mpei, based on the sound of the English word “bay”. In fact, this phrase in Khmer means “twenty three”, this is the number of the pier located in this village. Here, all official marinas have numbers, and no Mpei Bay exists.

With the names of dive sites in Cambodia is also not easy, but more on that next time.