Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

Salikoko Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Fri Apr 24 13:31:21 UTC 2009

My colleague Amy Dahlstrom has shared with us here at U of C Linguistics
the following response, originally from Ives Goddard (at the Smithsonian
Institution), to the subject matter of this discussion on Lake Webster's
name. It's interesting how some discussions recur in history, perhaps
due largely to the discontinuity of discussants.


Dear Sali and everyone,

My colleague at the Smithsonian, Ives Goddard, has been trying for
decades to debunk this silly etymology.  The excerpt below is from
Goddard's review of Indian Names in Connecticut, /International Journal
of American Linguistics /v. 43, pp 157-9, *1977*.


"Perhaps this is the place to point out that Trumbull (p. 9) is the
ultimate unwitting source of the silliest and most tenacious tenets of
American folk-toponymy-the belief that the Indian name of Lake Webster,
on the Connecticut-Massachusetts border, is Lake
Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg and means /you fish on
your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle/. In the
early town records this is Chabunagungamaug Pond, a name Trumbull
translates /boundary fishing place/. This was also the name of the local
Nipmuck town, recorded by John Eliot as Chaubunakongkomuk (1668) and by
Daniel Gookin as Chabanakongkomun (1674). Trumbull seems to be wrong in
taking this as a different form meaning /a boundary place/, and his
interpretation of the name of the pond also seems problematical-more
likely would be /that which is/ (Proto-Eastern-Algonquian *-k) (/a/)
/divided /(*cop-) /island /(*-onak-) /lake /(*-akame-). In any event,
this name survived into the nineteenth century, appearing as
Chaubunagungamaug Pond in an 1831 memorial protesting the formation of
the town of Webster. In that same year, however, on survey maps of the
towns of Dudley and Oxford there appeared, apparently for the first
time, the name Chargoggagoggmanchoggagogg Pond for the same body of
water. This has the look of a humorous humbug, apparently incorporating
corruptions of the real name and of the name of nearby Manchaug Pond (so
Trumbull). The modern fourteen-syllable name is an arbitrary compounding
of the two 1831 names, but who was responsible for it, or for the poetic
paraphrase of Trumbull's translation, I do not know. It may also be
noted that at some point a plain old New England pond became a fancy
French-syntax lake.*

*For an attempt to debunk this name, see my letter to the editor of the
travel section, New York Sunday Times, May 2, 1971, sec. 10, p. 4. For
my lack of success, see the reply of Esther L. Budgar, ibid., and Edward
Blau (Newsweek Feature Service), "What's in a Name? Anything," Boston
Sunday Globe, October 24, 1971, p. A-28."

The American Dialect Society -

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