Signs Misspelling Name of Webster Lake Now Fixed

“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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Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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