What’s in a name?
Since writing about my cottage experiences on Washburn Island, my research reveals new sources that name the shallow waters around it, Scugog Lake. This is puzzling to me because my extended family bought cottages on the lake in the 1930s, and we refer to the lake as, Lake Scugog. Did we have it wrong for 65 years?
Last summer my buddies in Life Writers Ink enjoyed a writers’ retreat at an island cottage on Otter Lake. Why not Lake Otter? Famous Canadian painter, Tom Tomson, died mysteriously at Canoe Lake. Why not Lake Canoe?
The confusion calls for research. I google – Ontario Lakes – The Great Canadian Experience. Did you know The Sunset Country travel region located in the Northwestern section of Ontario has more lakes than any other part of the Province? I count over 550 lakes in their list from Abram to Yukon, most ending with the word Lake. I noted the exceptions: Lake Despair, Lake of Bays, Lake St. Joseph, Lake Kashabowie, Lake of the Woods, Lake Nipigon, Lake Savant and Lake Superior. There are only eight lake names that begin with the French word Lac. Do the math to see that the word Lake is most likely to appear after its given name.
Some lake names make me snicker. I imagine the stories behind the the names: Blindfold Lake, Booger Lake, Cuss Lake, Confusion Lake, Keg Lake, Hooch Lake, Loonshit Lake, Ghost Lake, Rat-Trap Lake, Unnamed Lake and Wine Lake.
I’m beginning to think that by placing the word Lake before the name Scugog, some well-intentioned official, a long time ago, ranked our lake into an elite group. The lakes close to Scugog are named: Balsam Lake, Sturgeon Lake, Pigeon Lake, Curve Lake and Rice Lake. Why is Lake Scugog set apart?
The Great Lakes spill their deep cold waters into The St. Lawrence Seaway – having names with the word Lake up front: Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior. Lake Scugog doesn’t have the historical clout they do, especially since Scugog is a man-made lake, the result of flooded swamps east of Port Perry in the early 1800s.
Perhaps naming lakes was the result of a mistaken stroke of a pen–or quill. Perhaps the differences came from inconsistent translations between early French and English, flipping between Lac before a place-name and Lake after a place-name.
I won’t waste any more time on this silly conundrum, especially because my father and other relations affectionately referred to Lake Scugog as Mud Lake. There is still a Mud Lake Road somewhere near Lake Scugog. Although 17 miles long, the silted bottom of the lake lays only 6 feet below the surface at its deepest point. My sisters and our boyfriends used to get our sailboat mast stuck in the mud when we flipped it in open water. The greenish/brownish/yellowish warm waters are more like a giant puddle than a lake. Maybe the lake should be renamed Scugog Pond.
Readers comments and stories are welcome.
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