Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is a real place pic.twitter.com/sHTh28I7wP— Elissa Chojnicki (@ECchojnicki) June 19, 2019
This following notion transpires only with the most rarest of occurrences in today’s overburdening information age, but there’s certain things that you see which you simply cannot unsee and there’s things which you read/come across but are unable to erase from memory no matter how hard you try. More often than not, such instances involve something grotesque or horrifying which is why they impact the audience far more and consequently imprint themselves in a nook within your cortex. However, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is neither grotesque nor petrifying, on the contrary, it’s a rather quaint and pleasant lake occupying 1,442 acres near the Connecticut border in the town of Webster, Massachusetts.
At first glance, to me, it appeared like the author of the piece had inadvertently let her hand rest on her keyboard and as an upshot had a range of random letters unknowingly inserted into her piece. Being a writer myself, I purely opened the piece out of a mixture of curiosity and sympathy (and hoping to catch a few laughs admittedly) but what I read left me confounded. Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (I gave up trying after a few attempts) or its shorter version Lake Chaubunagungamaug (no easy feat either) has existed since 1921 and is a source of great pride for the residents of the area. So much so that the American government tried shortening the name in the 1950’s but the decision was met with fierce resistance by the townspeople.
I’m sure the question ‘why’ must ring through a lot of readers minds as it did for me, apparently the story goes as such, before the dawn of colonialism in the area the lake was titled ‘Chaubunagungamaugg’ which means ‘fishing place at the boundary’. This soon changed after the arrival of English colonists who renamed it to ‘Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg’ roughly translating to ‘English knifemen and Nipmuck Indians at the boundary or neutral fishing place’. This was the origin of a series of blunders that were years in the making, as Webster is awash with sign boards (as you would expect most towns in America to be), although, what you do not expect are the multiple spelling errors that adorn the majority of sign boards.
Having discovered Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, do you find yourself in the same boat as me, do you also feel like this is one of those things that has now housed itself in your subconscious and will always remain with you? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section.