Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Just Call It Lake Webster
Less than an hour south of where we live there is a body of water that has gained some fame over the years. Most people call it Lake Webster, but the original inhabitants of the area, the Nipmuck Indians, an Algonquin speaking tribe, named the lake; Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The English translation of this mouthful is; "Englishmen at Manchaug at the fishing place at the boundary". There is a village nearby called Manchaug, its name derived from the Algonquin word "Monuhchogoks", the name of the particular group of Nipmuck natives that lived by the lake. The lake was important to the Nipmuck for fishing and was also used as a meeting place for several tribes, being central to several paths of the Great Trail system. The lake is 3.25 miles long and a little over a mile wide, surrounded by the several small New England towns and villages.
Over time, the locals came to say that the meaning of the name Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is; "You Fish on Your Side, I Fish on My Side, Nobody Fish in the Middle". A humorous article published in the local Webster newspaper back in the 1920's started that spin. Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is reputed to be the longest place name in the United States and 6th longest in the world. In 1954, Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger recorded a song about the lake and its unusual name, spreading its fame far and wide. But to us, and to most of the people that live in the area, it's just a pretty place with an unusual name. A spring-fed lake and place of natural beauty, surrounded by small towns and small town folk in what used to be the land of the Nipmuck.
Image of the sign was originally posted to Flickr by Bree Bailey at http://flickr.com/photos/61077396@N00/480368135 May 1, 2007