Monday, July 28, 2014

Fun to Say, East vs. West

The other day at work we got to talking about how many confusing yet fun to say derived-from-Native-American-languages names there are for things around here: towns, bodies of water, etc. I mentioned that New England also has a fair share of such names, and gave a few examples.

On the way home, the two states started trying to one-up one another in my head. Something like this:

Vermont: Queechee.
Washington: I'll see your Queechee and raise you a Snohomish.
Vermont: Oh, yeah? Memphramagog--beat that!
Washington: Ummm...Skookumchuck?
Vermont: Gar. Ompompanoosuc!
Washington: Sequim. Pronounced SKWIM. So there.
Vermont: Passumpsic.
Washington: Ooh. How about Puyallup?
Vermont: Winooski. Winooski, Winooski, Winooski!
Washington: Nisqually. I could do this all day.
Vermont: In my defense, Washington is a lot bigger.
New Hampshire: PEMIGAWASSETT!!
Washington: Geshundheit.

What are some fun town or water names near you?


x over it said...

Although I live in Washington (Tacoma to be precise) I grew up in Michigan and I must say we have some of the nicest-sounding native names in the country that are usually straightforward to say compared to the ones out here (but plenty of strange ones too!)

Notawassepee Creek was one I always used to make fun of as a kid… (although the root word, Nottawa is quite lovely)

Baw Beese Lake is another silly one, named after a beloved Sauk chief who was forced out by the government but the local population wanted to stay.

Kalamazoo is just cool, and it's the same of a large enough city commonly spoken that it's easy to forget the origins of the name.

Tekonsha is one of my favorite town names to say, it's just so pleasant in every way.

Then there are all the northern county names in Michigan, most of them very neat native names (though sometimes they're fabrications by Henry Schoolcraft based on native words that weren't actual real placenames) like Saginaw, Newaygo, Ontonagon and Gogebic. (those last two really are hard to say XD)

Yeah, you can probably tell that this is a topic I'm very interested in. I have plenty of atlases to consult...

x over it said...

Oh! I forgot my favorite—Washtenaw. I was born in Washtenaw County.

And of course Seattle and Tacoma are some of the neatest Native American names that are commonplace words.

Elizabeth H. said...

Great examples! Loved this. And you're right--some of the neatest names are cities/towns that we've heard so many times we almost take them for granted. Makes me want to research the original meaning of every one....

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm! This got me trying to remember some of the Narragansett indian names back in Rhode Island. This is from 40 year old memories so I can't be sure of the spelling.
Pascoag (pronounced pas kwog)

Bet there are plenty more such words that are known only to the locals. Sort of like the directions that say: turn right where the big oak tree USED to be.

Jeff The Bear

Elizabeth H. said...

Another good list! I particularly like Misquamicut. And something about seeing those New England names reminded me that Massachusetts and Connecticut also fit this category.