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Not Quite Lewis and Clark

What's in a Name?

If you have even a single inquisitive bone in your body you’ve probably wondered how certain things got their names. For example, why is a dollar bill called a “buck?” Or who decided denim was all of a sudden going to be labeled “jeans?” Furthermore, why do I get strange looks when I try to turn my jeans into shorts? (I don’ have an answer for that last one). The point is there’s a history behind all of these words, and today you’re going to learn how the Mississippi River got its name.

If you started this article by scrolling down to see how long it was (shame on you by the way) you’ll notice it’s a relatively short piece. That’s because in true American fashion we stole somebody else’s work, added a few extra letters, and then called it our own. If that comes as a shock you may want to go back and reread the nation’s history. Chances are you might have dozed off a few times during those middle school lectures.

Turns out the Mississippi River got its name from the Ojibwe or Chippewa Indians (which immediately takes me to one random line in an obscure Tim McGraw song). They lived in Canada as well as parts of the Upper Midwest, and they named it Misi Sipi which translates to either “Big River” or “Great River” depending on who you ask.

Ojibwe family.jpg(The picture is entitled, "Ojibwe Men 1911.")

I’m not 100% sure why we added a bunch of “I’s” and “s’s” to the thing expect maybe to make it more “American.”  I’m sorry it’s not a terribly exciting story, but now if you’re ever in desperate need of small talk you can always go to this. I’m thinking first dates, conversations with your slightly racist uncle, or perhaps even to break the tension when your cat won’t stop staring at you.

Bonus fun fact- The source of the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca, comes from the Latin words veritas caput, meaning “true head.”

Lake Itasca 2.jpg
(This more or less is the jumping-off point) 


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