Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Voices from the Past: The Lake with the Unpronounceable Name (1902)

The Lake with the Unpronounceable Name

What's in a name? A lake by any other would fish as sweet.

Well, perhaps not if you are a certain lake in Massachusetts.

The Boston Daily Advertiser reported in 1902 about a lake with an unpronounceable name. Give it a shot. I dare you.

The Fish and Game Commission has temporarily prohibited fishing in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggachaubunagungamaugg. Just why fishing has been prohibited there is not entirely stated. It is rumored that some reckless sportsman drew the lake's name through that body of water several times (after the manner of a seine) and that this reckless practice resulted in catching nearly all the fish that were too large to slip through the "au's" and the "gg's." If the orders of the Fish Commission were necessary to preserve the beauties of this charming lake, they were justifiable. As the town poet of Webster has forcefully song:

No Franklin pond nor Hampshire bog
Can compare with Lake Chargoggagog-

Anyway, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (as it is properly spelled) has a long and interesting history, as attested to by this vignette penned for Webster's centennial in 1959. Apparently the Nipmuck Indian name means "Englishmen at Manchaug at the Fishing Place at the Boundary." It is sometimes called, by those with no soul, Webster Lake. It's more fun name is the longest place name in America (45 letters) and one of the longest in the world.

It's a pretty lake, as you can see from the photo above, and I'd like a fishing report stat so I can plan my next trip to Webst...I mean Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

Of course, there HAD to be several songs written about this lake. The first was a popular duet by Broadway stars Ray Bolger and Ethel Merman called "The Lake Song." I have heard this song but can't seem to locate a version on-line. It's where the incorrect translation of the name "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, no one fishes in the middle" was first popularized.

Here's another song about the lake written in 1935 and popularized Fred Waring and his Pennyslvanians, sung in a very charming way by a local school choir.

Finally, we have a third version sung by folksinger Diane Taraz called ""Let's Go Canoeing on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg."

-- Dr. Todd

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