Until 1991 this country, named for a river, had a capital whose name means “lakes” in Portuguese

On Thursday, July 11, 2024, “Jeopardy!” presented a challenging and insightful Final Jeopardy question in the category “Countries of the World.”

The clue given to the contestants was: “Until 1991 this country, named for a river, had a capital whose name means ‘lakes’ in Portuguese.” This type of clue requires not only knowledge of geography but also an understanding of historical and linguistic elements associated with countries around the world.

What is Nigeria?

Nigeria, named after the Niger River, is one of Africa’s most populous countries and has a rich colonial and post-colonial history. The clue references Nigeria’s capital up to 1991, which was Lagos. The name “Lagos” translates to “lakes” in Portuguese, reflecting the period of Portuguese exploration along the African coast during the 15th century. The explorers named the area around the city “Lago de Curamo,” which eventually became known simply as Lagos.

The shift of the capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991 was a strategic decision by the Nigerian government. Abuja was chosen to replace Lagos because of its central location, which is less congested and more neutral for ethnic and religious groups across Nigeria. This decision was part of broader efforts to promote national unity and better manage the administrative functions of the country.

Geographical and Linguistic Connections

The Niger River, which is the third-longest river in Africa, plays a crucial role in the economy and culture of Nigeria, influencing the naming of the country. The river runs through several countries before entering Nigeria and emptying into the Gulf of Guinea. Its significance is reflected not only in the country’s name but also in its historical trade and transportation routes.

The use of Portuguese names like “Lagos” in Nigeria highlights the influence of European explorers who mapped and named many parts of Africa. These historical ties are crucial for understanding the blend of cultural influences that have shaped the country. In answering the clue correctly, contestants would need to make the connection between the historical capital’s name and its meaning in Portuguese, a detail that adds a layer of complexity to the country’s colonial past.

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