SOME JUST CALL IT WEBSTER.

A NY Times story by Pam Belluck discusses what is said to be the longest place name in the US, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Massachusetts. There’s a picture of a misspelled sign, lyrics from “The Lake Song” by Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger (“Oh, we took a walk one evening and we sat down on a log/ By Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg”), and an etymological excursus:

There is more consensus on the meaning of Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, but it turns out the consensus is wrong. In the 1920′s, a reporter for The Webster Times, Lawrence J. Daly, wrote that it was a Nipmuck Indian word meaning “You fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.” That stuck even though Mr. Daly confessed repeatedly that he had made the whole thing up.
The real meaning, said Paul Macek, a historian in Webster, a community of about 17,000 just northwest of where Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts intersect, is “English knifemen and Nipmuck Indians at the boundary or neutral fishing place.”


In case you were wondering, it is not the world’s longest place name:

The honor goes to what the Guinness people call the “most scholarly transliteration” of the official name for Bangkok: krungthephphramahanakhon bowonratanakosin mahintharayuthaya mahadilokphiphobnovpharad radchataniburirom udomsantisug.

Oh, and if you want to say the lake’s name out loud, it’s not hard if you break it into three chunks: Chargoggagogg (char-GOG-agog) manchauggagogg (man-CHOG-agog) chaubunagungamaugg (chaw-bunna-GUNG-gamog). Kind of catchy, isn’t it?
(Thanks to Bonnie for the link!)

Comments

  1. Heh. I thought of you when I read that article and wondered if I would see a reference to it next time I checked your site.

  2. Margaret S. says:

    In fact, the made-up etymology does not contradict the apparent real meaning; it seems rather to be an interpretation of it. A coincidence? or perhaps Daly had some knowledge or at least awareness of the name’s true meaning.

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