Where does the name Waxahatchee come from?

Waxahatchee is a Brooklyn-based music project headed by Katie Crutchfield. The music press tell us that Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. In January 2011 Crutchfield “was living at her parents’ house on Waxahatchee Creek, nursing the bruises of a few bad relationships and wondering what to do with her adulthood.” A […]

English from the treetops

There’s a 400-year-old verse that I consider ideal for demonstrating change in the English language. It’s “The lowest trees have tops,” by a nobody called Edward Dyer. As poetry, it operates at about the level of forgettable pop music. It’s standard iambic pentameter, and the rhyme pattern is ABABCC. What first struck me is the […]

Creek language treasures

The Creek Language Archive just gets better and better. The website recently added Creek Texts by Mary R. Haas and James H. Hill, a trove of transcribed manuscripts in the Creek language on a variety of interesting subjects. …este nak kērrvlket hvsoss-elecv sehokēpofv tat,nake kērrulke ensukcv fvcfvkē omet sehok’t omvtēt omēs. …and when gitlalgi (“knowers”) […]

Indian talk: The Long Man

One of the Indian phrases we white folks like to throw around now and again is the name “Long Man” or “Long Person” for a river. We tend to do this with the idea that Indians had some “primitive” idea of the river as a god of some kind. The fact is, the name and […]

Sylacauga, or the Buzzard Roost

Comrade Kevin mentioned (here) that the name Sylacauga (a city in Alabama) is often translated as “Buzzard Roost.” That reminded me of a historical tradition in Atlanta that the city occupies the site of “Indian towns” called Buzzard Roost and Standing Peachtree. For now I’ll ignore Standing Peachtree and concentrate on Buzzard Roost.1 A historical […]

Tobesofkee, a Creek Indian place name in Georgia

As a boy I camped out a time or two at Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area, a nice spot beside a reservoir near Macon, Georgia. The four-syllable name [to-bə-SAF-ki] is a corrupt form of something in the Muskogee (Creek Indian) language. Recently I’ve done some reading on what the original Muskogee name might have been. (The […]

On Indian place names

I’ve been thinking lately about the petty crimes we Americans have performed on place names that come from Indian languages. There are a ton of them, from Massachusetts to Seattle, and from Alabama to Wyoming. Confronted with these mysterious names (which we white folks made even more mysterious by corrupt pronunciation), some historians and other […]