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Friday, June 19, 2009

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

Above we have an idyllic postcard scene, typical of idyllic postcards scenes, of a place with an anything but typical name. This serene lake in the rural hinterlands nestled between those two great New England cities of Boston and Hartford, is sometimes called Lake Chaubunagungamaug.

Although, at other times, if you take a deeper breath and are feeling up to it, the lake is called Lake

It’s located in the town of Webster, Massachusetts, right on the border with Connecticut, and some people who are syllable-challenged, prefer to call it Webster Lake.

The Nipmucs of the Algonquin tribes are responsible for this formidable place name, supposedly the longest in the United States, which is said to mean: "Fishing Place at the Boundaries - Neutral Meeting Grounds". Several tribes met here at the convergence of many tribal boundaries, so diplomacy was important. And, you are apt to have less wars if it takes all day to pronounce the name of the meeting place.

Two songs about the lake have been written, one dating back to the 1930s, and the other recorded by Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger in 1954.

The older version: "By Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg" (Is that a catchy title or what?) written by Will Heagney, Will Mahoney and Bert Reed was published by the Harry Von Tilzer Music Co. of New York in 1935. Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians once gave it the old college try. Here are the lyrics below if you want to have a whack at it, but listen first to this delightful video by Webster’s own Bartlett High School Alumni Choir to coach you through it.

After a few tries, you can go to Webster and pronounce the lake’s name like a real townie. Or, if you really can’t manage it, you can still call it Webster Lake. Probably nobody will mind.

What a place to see, what a place to be when the summer is here
You can spend all your time at play, blues will soon disappear.
Every day will be one big holiday, you'll be living at ease,
From early morning till late at night, you can do as you please.

When you hear the rippling water, it will set your heart a gogg,
At Lake Char-gogg-agogg-manchaugg-a-gogg-cha-bun -a-gun-ga-maugg
And the rhythm of the bull frogs, with their love-lorn dialogue,
At Lake Char-gogg-agogg-manchaugg-a-gogg-cha-bun -a-gun-ga-maugg.

Oh, there is such a lot to do, you lose all track of time
Nobody knows it's Sunday till they hear the church bells chime.
You can find out where this place is, if you look up your geog,
It's Lake Char-gogg-agogg-manchaugg-agogg-cha-bun- a-gun-ga-maugg.
It's Lake Char-gogg-agogg-manchaugg-agogg-cha-bun- a-gun-ga-maugg.


John Hayes said...

Wow, I don't remember that one from my New England days! Interesting post as always-- love the old post card (I have a bunch of old postcards, esp. New England, & am thinking of doing something with them on RFBanjo), & what a song. Love "geog" as a rhyming word.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, John. I'd love to see your old NE postcards on "Banjo". Great song, huh? One of my favorites. Actually, not difficult to sing once you break the word down. I like their use of "geog", too. Almost sounds like a Nipmuc word, doesn't it?

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