There is some debate about what the name Djibouti means. I’ve heard explanations and depending on the ethnicity of the speaker, the answer changes. But today I stumbled across a sort-of answer in a library book.

Yes, I got a library book.

arthur rimbaud cultural centerThe library is in the Arthur Rimbaud Cultural Center, a blue and white, fenced-in building on the edge of downtown. I have a love-hate relationship with this library. I love books, so automatically that is a point in the ARCC’s favor. I particularly love books in English, so that is a mark against the ARCC. I am glad for the weak air conditioning, a point in their favor. I was once kicked out, a mark against them.

Have you ever been kicked out of a library?

I was in the children’s section though I am decidedly not a child and didn’t have a child with me. However there were no open seats in the adult section and as the library is so small you can see from one side to the other, bookshelves and all, I didn’t think this would be a problem. It was. I also had my computer open, not a book. I didn’t think this would be a problem. It was. I also didn’t have a library card but intended to get one on my way out. Yet another problem. Then I made the mistake of putting my foot up on a chair beneath the table. My fatal error. And thus, I was kicked out of the library.

I didn’t get a card that day but eventually interest in the Djibouti books section drew me back. I geared up my linguistic courage for a foray into French literature and checked out my full limit of two books.

One, Lucy’s choice (she was with so I was able to sit in the children’s section undisturbed): Je m’ennui. I’m Bored. And one my choice: Traversées, histoires, et mythes de Djibouti compiled by Amina Saiid Chiré and Biringanine Ndagano.

This is what I found about the name of our host country (translated into English by me):

“Somalis brandish their jab-butti, which literally means the defeat of the female ogre (long story), the Afar rival with yi-bûti, which means my metal cooking pot (makes sense considering the temperatures), and the Arabs retort with jâ a l-bût, which means the boats comes.”

In other words, no one really knows for sure.

Djiboutians: Can you enlighten me on this topic? 

Americans: Why do you ask me what ‘Djibouti’ means? Do you know what ‘America’ means? (I had to use Google)