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Review of The Rock That Plows Their Waters - Double Dutch and Shadow Talk in the Poetry of the Sacred Landscape: In Search of Algonquin/Mixed-Blood Word Play in the Old Place-names of Wundji-Yahlkun, New York's Hudson Valley Region: A Self Guided Tour for Mororists, by Evan T. Pritchard
Here we go again. This 62-page spiral bound booklet, published in 2008, has just recently come to my attention. To give this work the complete critical exposure it deserves would take me months to complete. I'm not going to devote that much time to it. In short, Pritchard proposes that the spelling of Indian placenames in the Hudson River Valley area contain puns and other word-play intentionally put therein by both Indians and mixed-blood Euro-Indians living in this region-for fun! Therefore, he finds multiple layers of meaning in all these names, depending on how they can be broken up into their various semantic elements. I'd say you can't make up this stuff-but, Pritchard has managed to do so.
Instead of laboring through this entire tangled mess of pseudo-linguistic gibberish, I'm going to simply give, here, most (not all) of the author's Indian-based interpretations, the reasons why they are preposterous, and my own best guesses as to what the names actually meant to the Munsee-speaking people who spoke them-based on my 33 years of studying the Delaware Indian language (which doesn't appear to count for much versus people who simply imagine and invent whatever nonsense will sell).
Coxing (Koghk-soh-sing) Kahak+sing "wild geese," plus "place." Or, "near the high place." [Pritchard prefers the latter interpretation. I don't find Pritchard's word for "wild geese" in Munsee.]
RW - "place of grub worms" < *kooksung < *kookus ("grub worm") + -ung (locative suffix) [cp. NU
gooksak ("grub worms") < *gookus ("grub worm") + -ak (animate plural suffix) with -us contracted to -s-
in suffixed forms.]
Coxsackie (Kahak-sackee) < Kahak ("wild geese") + sac ("point of land") + hakee ("territory" or 'land of"). [See previous entry.]
RW - "land of grub worms" < *kooksahkuy < *kookus ("grub worm") + -ahkuy ("land") [cp. NU gooksak
("grub worms") < *gookus ("grub worm") + -ak (animate plural suffix) with -us contracted to -s- in
Esopus (Seepoo-us/Sheepush) "small river" [Pritchard got this right by adopting Ruttenber's interpretation, instead of concocting his own.
RW - "little creek" < shiipoosh [Based on an old variant, Sypous (1657). This is either a Dutch
spelling, which language lacks the palatalized s (i.e., sh); or, less likely, one that reflects the usage of a
Munsee subdialect which pronounces s as th, and sh as s.]
Governors Island: Pagganck ("place of hickory nuts") in Renneiu. [Pagganck does not mean "place of hickory nuts" in any Delaware dialect with which I'm familiar.]
RW - This is in Munsee-speaking territory and the closest word I can find is pakhang ("one who
flattens something (with a tool)." Less likely is paakhang ("one who bumps into something (with
something else)." Names of persons are rarely used as placenames, though this could be an example.
Who knows? In any case, the word has nothing in it which means "hickory nuts."
Hoboken "He smokes a pipe" [Pritchard says this is Nora Thompson Dean's translation. It isn't.]
RW - "in the land of the tobacco pipe" < Pidgin Delaware, Hobocan-Hacking (July, 1630)
Kerhonksen (Kahak-sink) "place of wild geese" < Kahak ("wild geese") + sink ("a specific place") ["Kahak" is impossible, since every variant includes the -nk- or -nck- spelling. Also, see Coxing, above.]
RW - "where animate things are had" < (eenda) *kxangwsiing [Based on the variants kahanksen
(1665) and kahankasinck (1709), and positing a TA verb, *kxanaan, from which a passive AI verb,
*kxangwsiing, is derived - perhaps referring to an area full of game animals, or spirits, or trees?]
Mahopac (Mach-o-peck) "Bear Lake"
RW - "that which is a lot of water" < meexpeek [This accords well with the present pronunciation of the name.]
Mamaroneck (Mamaraannock, or Mamarochrannock) "a place where fresh water flows into the salt" < Dutch, mamaroch ("mother + skirt"), contracted to mama + Renneiu, raan ("where the fresh water flows into the salty") + Algonkian, noch ("a landing place" or "place near the river"). [Pritchard's word-parts and their interpretations are preposterous.]
RW - "that which is a streaky stream" < *maamaarahneek [Presumably, a place where streaks or
stripes in the water are produced on the downstream side of rocks sticking out of the water.
Mohonk (Mogkonk) < Mog ("great") + konk ("the side/foot of a rocky hill") < mo ("very great") + konk ("at the side of a rocky hill or mountain") [There are no such semantic elements, "mo" and "konk," in Delaware, and these word-parts do not mean what the author says they do. Nor does his word-part, "honk," mean "a waterfall that cascades down the side of a mountain," as he also states under this placename (p.35).]
RW - "place of bears" < maxkwung [Based on the old variant, Moggonck.]
Munsee (Minisink) < Menissinck ("the people of the island place")
RW - "an islander" < *munsiiw < *munus ("island") + -iiw (noun suffix) [Minisink ("place of
islands") < *munusung ("place of islands") < *munus ("island") + -ung (locative suffix)]
Nanuet (Nanwitt or Nanawitt) "walks with" < -witt ("walks with") [There is no word-part, "-witt," meaning "walks with" in Delaware.]
RW - "he who recognizes me" < neenawiit [This man was an early signatory to deeds.]
Neversink < Munsee Navasink ("a high promontory place" or "where land goes to a point" or "high point of land") ["Navasink," so spelled, cannot be Munsee or any other Delaware dialect, since there is no v in any of them.]
RW - Lucy Blalock, of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, suggested "place you can see from afar" < SU newasink.]
Ossining (Sintsink) "the people of the place of stone" < sin ("stone") + sing ("the people of the place of"). "Ossining doesn't mean anything." [There is no word-part, "sing," meaning "the people of the place of" in Delaware.]
RW - "place of stone" < asunung < asun ("stone") + -ung (locative suffix)
Ponckhokie "the land (hakee) of biting bugs (ponkies)" [It can't refer to "biting bugs" because there is no s in this name, as there is in the presumed Unami-based word for "mosquito" or "sandfly."]
RW - "land of dust" < Pidgin Delaware, *ponghoki or Munsee, *pongwahkuy
Rockaway (Rechawaakee or Rechewan) Rech-a-wa-kee ("sandy territory") or Rechewan ("sandy stream"), in the Renneiu language. Equivalent of L-dialect Munsee, Lackawaxen ("sandy stream"). [Pritchard follows Ruttenber on the interpretation of Rechawaakee (actually, Reckkouwhacky - "sandy land"), which is probably correct. There is nothing in Lackawaxen meaning "stream."]
RW - "sandy" < *rekuwii ("sandy") [My interpretation can only apply to the New Jersey names.
Rechewan is a variant of Rechgawawanck which appears on early maps. Ives Goddard has interpreted
this as "forked bluff" < Munsee *reexawaawang. I interpret Lackawaxen as "there are forked trees" <
lxawahkwsiin. The earliest spelling begins with Lech-.
The Shawngum (Shawangunks) "the way or trail near the mountains where we go south" < Shaw ("south") + ann ("way" or "trail" or "to go") + gunk ("near a mountain" or "between mountains." [Pritchard's "gunk" ("near a mountain" or "between mountains") is non-existent in Delaware.
RW - "in the smoky air" < *shaawangung < *shaawang ("that which is smoky air") + locative suffix.
Towpath (Topatcoke/Thopatkock) "a place near the water which looks like a pot of boiling water" [Pritchard provides no analysis of his interpretation.]
RW - "where there is cold water" < (eenda) thupeekahk
Wappingers (Muwha-pinkus from Wapping) Wapping = "men of the east." Mu-hwa-pink-us = "possum." This sounds like "the Wappinger phrase," "he has no fur on his tail" < mu-wha ("no" or "without") + pinkus ("fur"), and also "little white faced one" < muh ("face") + whabin ("white") + kus ("small"). [After reading my critical review of his book, Native New Yorkers, Pritchard has adopted, partially, my etymology of Zeisberger's muchwoapingus ("opossum"); while still holding on to his original nonsense interpretation, "he has no fur on his tail," from his non-existent word-parts, mu-wha ("no" or "without") + pinkus ("fur").]
RW - "opossum" < waapiingw [The etymology of NU muchwoapingus is actually "big-white-face-little-one."]
Waoraneck (War-nock) "good, peaceful place by the water" < Algonquin, wer ("good," "peaceful") + nock ("place by the water") [No such word-part as "nock" meaning "place by the water" exists in Delaware.]
RW - "a fine stream" (i.e., a stream without rapids) < *wurahneek or *wawurahneek
Wawayanda: (Wow-way-wen) "egg-ness" < Wow ("egg") + awaywen ("-ness"). [There is no such word-part as "awaywen," meaning "-ness," in Delaware.]
RW - "the ditch" or "the trench" < *wahwaayuhandi or *wahwaahyandi [I am positing initial
reduplication and a Y for L substitution, as sometimes occurs in Delaware dialects. I'm not sure how
the shift from -lh- to -yh- would look, but it is either -yuh- or -hy-. The y is pronounced like the y in
"yes." [Cp. Mission Delaware, alatschimo/ayatschimo ("he relates it") and allappawi/ayappawe ("in the
morning") Note also the tributary stream to the Muskingum in Ohio, named Walhonding, from this
same word - NU walhundi. The final -i in this word is pronounced short, like the i in "hit."]
Wickerscreek (Wiechquaeskeck) "at the end of the principle place (by the water)" < Wi-quie ("at the end of") + keck ("the principle place (by the water)" [Pritchard's "Wi-quie" isn't right, but we'll give him a pass on it, since it's "in the ballpark." His "keck" word-part and its meaning are both ridiculous. I think he meant "principal" instead of "principle," too, but that's a side issue.]
RW - "the end of the swamp" < wihkwaskeekw
Wiccopee "homes by the water"
RW - "the end of the water" < *wihkwupuy
Woodcock Mountain (Wenigtikonk) "a good fire place on the mountain" < Wenig ("good") + ti ("place of council fire" + konk ("on or near a mountain"). [There are no Delaware word-parts, "wenig," "ti" or "konk," which bear any of the meanings Pritchard assigns to them.]
RW - "at the snowy river" < *winihtukwung < win- ("snowy") + -ihtukw ("river") + -ung (locative suffix).
The original is Wineghtekonck - not Wenigtikonk. (see Ruttenber, Indian Geographical Names, p.132)
In short, Pritchard proposes that the spelling of Indian placenames in the Hudson River Valley area contain puns and other word-play intentionally put therein by both Indians and mixed-blood Euro-Indians living in this region-for fun! Therefore, he finds multiple layers of meaning in all these names, depending on how they can be broken up into their various semantic elements.
- some of those are just .. eggness?
Try this typical excerpt, from page 16, on for size:
YONKERS - The tribal group who lived at that spot were the Nepperan, who may have been called the Montawak in Algonquin times, relatives of the Matouac ... Montawak implies 'young men' ('those who frequent small islands' is implied) and Yonkers is ...Dutch... Jangers, for young men. ...a large part of the population seems to have been Taino whalers... Tammany ...is a variation on Demenon ...the blue faced Taino demigod of creation who falls from the Orion constellation...