Donald M. Lance LanceDM at MISSOURI.EDU
Fri Jan 12 21:42:23 UTC 2001

I was away while the sni / sny interchange took place.  Sni-a-Bar Creek is in eastern
Jackson County, which isn't far from where Greg Pulliam's father lives (the first posting
on this item).  USGS gives these variant names for the stream:  Big Sni-A-Bar Creek,
Sniabar Creek.  The headwaters are in the southwest corner of Lafayette County.  It flows
into Jackson County and back into Lafayette County.  Its mouth on the Missouri is just
east of the town of Wellington.  The highway sign on I-70 has SNI-A-BAR CREEK.

Robert L. Ramsay (OUR STOREHOUSE OF MISSOURI PLACE NAMES, University of Missouri Press,
1952, 1973, pp. 9, 45, 47, 49, 121) speculated that the"popular etymology" of this name
((NOT corruption!!)) is an Americanized pronunciation of a French name given to the stream
by French-speaking fur trappers or traders.  He speculates that the name might have been
Chenal Hubert, named for or by Antoine Hubert, a St. Louis merchant who traded there in
1768, or for or by Francis Hébert (1750-1780), a well-known St. Louis landowner.  For the
current pronunciation, the name Chenal Hébert is the more likely.  Ramsay also suggests
that the dialectal form 'chenail' for 'chenal' ('channel') may have led to the current
name.  It's not much of a stretch to imagine an early semi-literate English-speaking
Missourian trying to "reduce to writing" the name 'Chenail Hébert' spoken in Canadian or
Missouri French and writing 'SNI-A-BAR'.

Ramsay also mentions Snicarty in Lewis County, the next county upriver from Marion County
MO (Hannibal) and Adams County IL (Quincy), the location of The Sny discussed by Tim
Frazer and others.

USGS has this:
Feature Name:  Snicarty Slough
Feature Type:  gut
State:  Missouri
County:  Lewis
Variant Name(s):  Sny Carte
Latitude:  UNKNOWN
Longitude:  UNKNOWN

Ramsay speculates that this name may have come from 'chenal Écarté' (separated channel)
for this narrow channel that is/was not the main channel of the Mississippi at this point.

It is also possible that the English-speaking name-givers in both northeastern and western
Missouri were aware of the boatbuilder's use of the word 'sny' cited by Mark Odegard.


Steve Hicks wrote:

> Having grown up near the Sni-a-Bar area in western Jackson County, Mo., I remember
> reading that it is one of those rough frontier anglicizations of an original French name
> (as "Chemin Couver" became mangled to "Smackover").  I'll check on that, and see what
> the French original is said to be.
>                                 Steve Hicks

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