Two hundred fifty-fourth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
There are myriad ways to spell and say the name of our region. Kootenay is the official Canadian spelling and Kootenai the official American spelling (the Kootenay River becomes the Kootenai River when it crosses the border) but common misspellings include Kootnay, Kooteney, and Kootny.
The Oxford English Dictionary prefers Kutenai — and lists the rarely-seen Kutenay as a leading variant. The OED also offers the idiosyncratic pronunciation koot-in-eye, whereas most of us say koot-nee, or perhaps koot-in-ee, and the uninitiated might go with koot-nay or koot-in-ay. These variants are academic, however, given that they are all corruptions of Ktunaxa (too-NAH-hah), the name of one of the indigenous peoples on whose traditional territory we live.
• Ymir is pronounced WHY-mur, even though in Norse mythology it’s EE-mur. Whether the local pronunciation has changed over time is not clear, although the current way of saying it dates back at least to the 1920s. Pity those who have never seen the name in any context, and are left guessing that it’s yimmer.
• Fauquier is another tricky one. It’s foke-yer, not foke-yay, although elsewhere in the world it’s falk-yer. A Virginia county uses the latter pronunciation.
• Riondel causes much angst. You’ll hear RYE-on-del, REE-on-del, and ree-ON-dul, and perhaps a few others. The original pronunciation was REE-on-del, after the French banker who was president of the Canadian Metal Co., owners of the Bluebell mine. But even longtime residents may prefer one of the variants.
• Rossland is pronounced as it is spelled, but you’ll often hear RAWZ-land, to the consternation of some who grew up there.
• Kaslo is kaz-low rather than kas-low.
• Wynndel is a shibboleth: to locals, it rhymes with spindle. To non-locals, it’s often wynn-DEL.
• Castlegar is pronounced with the emphasis on castle, although occasionally out-of-towners prefer to stress the gar. (And sometimes it just comes out Cass-a-gar.)
• Kinnaird is kin-aird not kin-ard.
• Boswell is bos-wul, not bos-well.
• Balfour is bal-fir, not bal-for, after Arthur Balfour, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1902-05.
• Koch Siding and Koch Creek both rhyme with owe, after William C.E. Koch (1856-1931), who built a sawmill there.
A few other pronunciations are a bit more nebulous.
• Lardeau is pronounced LAR-doh (it was formerly spelled Lardo) but you’ll sometimes hear lar-DOH.
• The emphasis in Slocan is prone to shifting. By itself, it’s slightly on the second syllable: slow-CAN. But in Slocan Valley, Slocan City, and Slocan River, it’s slightly on the first syllable.
• In our Montrose, the emphasis is on the first syllable. But other places with the same name emphasize the second syllable.
• You’ll hear Comaplix pronounced both kaw-ma-plix and coh-ma-plix. Incomappleux River, however, is pronounced both in-com-a-ploo and in-com-a-ploh — but ought to more closely mirror Comaplix, since both are derived from the Sinixt word nk’mapeleks.
On the spelling side, Procter has been misspelled Proctor from Day One, even by the CPR and the post office, but it’s definitely –ER, after founder Thomas Gregg Procter (1862-1913).
• Similarly, Woodbury has always been misspelled Woodberry, but Charles Johnson Woodbury (1844-1927) will have you know it’s supposed to be –URY.
• You can take your pick between Kuskonook and Kuskanook. Both spellings appeared at the same time, and each has its adherents, although Kuskanook appears to be more popular. It appears to be an Anglicization of the Ktunaxa phrase ?a•q̓asak ?a•kuq̓nuk, meaning “edge of the lake.”
• Beaton was formerly known as Thomson’s Landing — not Thompson’s Landing — after James Wilson Thomson (1851-1934).
• It’s Rosebery, not Roseberry, after Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, although the local post office had cancellations of both spellings.
• It’s Camborne, not Cambourne, after the Camborne School of Mines.
• It’s Playmor Junction, not Playmore nor Playmour. The fanciful spelling first shows up in the US in the 1920s as the name of a club and a music store. It was given to a South Slocan dance hall in 1940.
• Ootischenia is the official spelling, but other, more accurate transliterations from Russian exist, such as Ooteshenia and Utesheniye.
• The MV Anscomb, which plied Kootenay Lake from 1947 to 2000, was often misspelled Anscombe, which must have annoyed Herbert Anscomb (1892-1972) from beyond the grave. He was highways minister when the boat was launched.
Other frequent misspellings fall mainly in the category of typos: Castelgar for Castlegar; Slamo for Salmo; Naksup for Nakusp, Trial for Trail, Neslon for Nelson, and Kalso for Kaslo — although Kalso is a shoe brand.