Hochelaga Etymology: Portuguese

carljweber carljweber at MSN.COM
Wed Dec 26 18:08:27 UTC 2001

Hochelaga Etymology: Portuguese
Carl Jeffrey Weber

As an aside to Chicago Etymology.
Hochelaga is a place name, writ large and mysterious in the mid-16th century
on the famous maps of the deep interior of the North American Continent. It
seems always to have been thought by scholars to be first recorded by the
famous French explorer, Jacques Cartier, in 1535 - on his second voyage of
discovery (and appearing, directly attributable to Cartier, on Pierre
Descoliers' maps in the 1540s). It has been considerer a Huron-Iroquois
word, variously meaning Large Town, Big Rapids, or Beaver Dam.

However, Hochelaga (Ochelage), appearing on the following EARLIER Portuguese
map, of 1534, challenges the traditional view, and opens the strong
possibility that it is of IndoEuropean origin -- a water morpheme obviously
suggested by "-laga." http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/lavrador.html.
The first part of the word, if by authentication, signifies the number
"eight," the appearance of the word shows an uncanny prescience, the Great
Lakes not having been (even roughly) sketched in on any map for another 116
years. (Of this "Hoche-" as the number, though, I'm at this point reserved.)

The Portuguese in the Gulf of St. Laurence area was known early - as was the
presence of other Europeans (but primarily as fleet fishing industries, not

Particularly illustrative, though, the Portuguese are seen on the famous
Cantino map of 1502. The Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494, is expressed on this
map as the famous line separating the Spanish from the
Portuguese --http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/port_cantino.html. Note
how little of the Continent was known. The word "Portugal," not very legible
here, nonetheless, shows their claim in the St. Laurence region, near the
top of the 1494 line.

If these observations could be directed to the attention of a scholar of
historical Portuguese, I would appreciate it. On similar Iberian
cartographic evidence and historical context, "Canada" might also be
determined to have been Portuguese, relating to the early descriptions of
water foul that, to the astonished bedazzlement of the Europeans, blackened
the skies betwixt the vast horizons.

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