Signs Misspelling Name of Webster Lake Now Fixed

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

“There’s no excuse for a misspelled word,” my late grandpa once said, picking up his dictionary and grunting like a body builder lifting a heavy weight.

I agree with him, but am willing to allow for a little clemency when it comes to words and names like Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Yes, there’s a three-mile long lake in Webster, Mass., home of the Nipmuck Native American tribe, that actually has this 45-letter name.

The lake has been in the news a lot lately up north, as two local signs that misspelled the name in 2003 have now been fixed. The name, which is Native American, is generally translated as “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.” There’s some dispute about this, though. The translation was thought to have come from a Worcester, Mass., reporter who fudged its true meaning. The real meaning of the lake’s name, the Webster Lake Association says, is “fishing place at the boundaries — neutral meeting grounds.”

It would be interesting to hear from an actual Nipmuck Native American to get a better sense of the meaning of the word and it significance to the tribe. I’m part Native American (Wampanoag tribe) and I’m from Massachusetts, so when I heard a story about the lake on National Public Radio Monday evening, I was naturally intrigued. I’ve never been to this lake, but with a name like Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, I’m guessing it’s pretty darn cool.

I’m glad people appreciate the lake and the importance of correctly spelled names enough to change the spelling on the signs. Gramps would be proud.

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