Thursday, October 1, 2020

Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell


I have a lot of time on my hands these days and somehow my mind led me to think about names – especially place names. There is a plethora of names given to remember somewhere in the old country – New York, New Brunswick and so forth. There is no shortage of names given in honor of famous people like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, et al. But what about those that are frankly, just odd?

One of my college roommates was from Peculiar, Missouri. I asked how it got named and she said her grandfather was the post master who wrote to the Post Master General for suggestions. He said he wanted an unusual or peculiar name. The response was prompt. Name it Peculiar.

McDonald County has no shortage of unusual names. Post offices had names like Abo, Cowskin, Cyclone Gotham, Jacket, Looniesville, Noel, Moral, Nubia, Moral, Nubia, Pack, Rocky Comfort, Splitlog, Tiff City, Tribulation (my favorite).

I’m sure each of them has an interesting story behind their name. For a complete list and short descriptions of location and origin, go to the website “A directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets Past and Present of McDonald County, Missouri” compiled by Arthur Paul Moser.

Missourians cannot agree on how to pronounce the name of their own state. I grew up saying “Missou rah”, others insist on “Misou ree”. I confess I slip back and forth between the two. A few other slippery names are:

    “Ne VAY da” not like the state of “Ne VAD a”.
    “Ver SAILS” not “Ver SIGH” (Long i).
    “HAY tie” not “HAY tee”
    “Kearney” is pronounced “CAR nee”
    “Pomme de Terre is “Puhm duh TAHR”
    Bois D’Arc is Bo Dark
    Milan is MY-lun

Then we get to names of people. Actual names, not nicknames. I have known a Phoenix, Smoky Day, Sumer Dawn and I’m sure others that will come to mind too late. Names have been modified to suit local ways, like the pronunciation of “Billy Walter Bridgewater“ got compressed to “Bee Wah Toe Bee Wah” and Poindexter morphed to “PON dexter. My own surname was usually pronounced “ker NELL” not “CAR nell” as we said it.

Last there are some other names I have read that took a long time to learn to pronounce:

    Beauchamp = BEE cham
    Taliaferro = TOL a ver
    St. John = Sin GIN
    Mackinac Island = MAC in naw Island
    Antigua = an TEE gah

All in all, besides the grammar, English is a very peculiar language that takes a lifetime to learn.

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