Oregon
Posted: 12 October 2013 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I believe that the name is derived from orejón in Spanish.  Don Juan de Oñate, who led the Spanish colonists into New Mexico, was told of a tribe of Indians far to the Northwest with ears so long that they touched the ground which he called Orejones, people with long ears.  This was before Spanish was formalized by the Academia Real, when the ‘g’ and the ‘j’ were interchangeable.  (For example Geronimo and Jeronimo for Jerome) The Americans found the land called Tierra del Oregón, Land of the Long-Eared Ones, on Spanish maps and the rest is history.

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Posted: 12 October 2013 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This is from the State of Oregon’s Oregon Blue Book, the official state fact book about all levels of government in Oregon… and more. Published since 1911, it is produced by the Oregon State Archives, a division of Secretary of State Kate Brown’s Office.:

9.) Question: Where does the name “Oregon” come from?

Answer: That question remains the subject of debate. One opinion is as follows: The first written record of the name “Oregon” comes to us from a 1765 proposal for a journey written by Major Robert Rogers, an English army officer. It reads, “The rout . . . is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon. . . .” His proposal rejected, Rogers reapplied in 1772, using the spelling “Ourigan.” The first printed use of the current spelling appeared in Captain Jonathan Carver’s 1778 book, “Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America 1766, 1767 and 1768.” He listed the four great rivers of the continent, including “the River Oregon, or the River of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Straits of Annian.”

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Posted: 12 October 2013 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The Big List

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Posted: 12 October 2013 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s important to realize that a superficial similarity between words in different languages means nothing without convincing evidence of transmission.

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Posted: 12 October 2013 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The name appears on a French map from sometime before 1709 and the name is split into to lines, with -sint appearing below, giving the impression to a casual reader that the river’s name is ouracon. The river in question is the Wisconsin River, commonly called the Ouisconsing by the French. According to this hypothesis English explorers like Rogers confused the name with a river further to the west.

I’m interested in this syllable “wau” (and its varients, the French “Oui” in this case) in so many Native American names in my state. I come from a city called “Waukesha” in Wisconsin. There are also MiWAUkee, PeWAUkee, WAUwatosa, WAUsa and the like (the list of such words is large). All these are in Wisconsin which is Ojibway (Algonquian family of languages) territory originally.

I’ve heard that it means a “flashing light”, the sign that a deer’s tail makes when danger presents itself, flashing water and on and on.

Then of course, there is Alice Cooper’s etymology.

No idea really where to go with this. The origin is no doubt lost in native language history.

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Posted: 12 October 2013 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 October 2013 12:48 PM

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typo: “into two lines”

[ Edited: 12 October 2013 05:16 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Danke

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Posted: 13 October 2013 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s important to realize that a superficial similarity between words in different languages means nothing without convincing evidence of transmission.

well spoken, languagehat; it can’t be said too often.

Oregano is so-called because it doesn’t come from Oregon (actually, a spot of looking-up reveals that nobody, including the OED, is quite sure where the name actually originated)

Orgone doesn’t come from Oregon, either; it was first profitably extracted from thin air by Wilhelm Reich, M.Q. (Master of Quackery)

Oregon was, in fact, discovered and named by Sir Francis Bacon --- a discovery which went unnoticed by the world at large, though scientifically documented in his book, Novum Organum.

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Posted: 13 October 2013 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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This certainly provoked replies.  For the record, Don Juan de Oñate entered New Mexico in 1598 and Oregon was first discovered by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 and completed by his helmsman Ferrelo as far North on the Pacific Coast as Florence, Oregon , long before Drake ever showed up.

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Posted: 13 October 2013 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Some online sources that discuss Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, or João Rodrigues Cabrilho, don’t appear so positive that he made it to Oregon. It’s fascinating to think that he did, or that Drake did, but we’ll probably never know for certain. Drake’s ship’s log was lost in a fire and the account purportedly written by one of the ship’s crew seems goofy at best in some places. I don’t know about Cabrillo’s records, but it would certainly be known if they confirmed he reached a parallel so far north.

It’s helpful to remember that the California-Oregon coastline would have been extremely uninteresting to explorers seeking gold or other sources of wealth. It’s an awful lot of cliffs and trees, and there wasn’t much sign of civilization.

It is kind of odd that the entrance to San Francisco Bay went undiscovered for so long. However, the telescope hadn’t been invented*, and maybe the ships didn’t hug the coast. As a side note, I have a hard time believing Drake beached the ship at Point Reyes for a month of repairs but didn’t get out and about enough to discover one of the largest and most ideal bays in the world. But there’s no record of it.

*Though even after the telescope was invented the bay went undiscovered until Gaspar de Portolà found it by land. Drawing a parallel to the Oregon discussion, sailors and soldiers aren’t generally interested in trapping fur animals, building missions, establishing farms and ranches, or cutting timber. The people who explored the giant west were pursuing these things and more.

[ Edited: 13 October 2013 10:48 AM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I don’t think anyone disputes that Spanish explorers reached what is now Oregon before English or French ones did. The question is where did the name come from.

The best evidence is that the English acquired the name from a distance, without ever visiting the place. In 1765 Robert Rogers, a British military officer, heard from some of the Mohegan people of Connecticut about a great river that flowed to the Pacific (assumed to be what is now called the Columbia River). The Mohegans called the river wauregan (beautiful). There are also French accounts of a similar river dubbed la Belle Rivière. This path is quite well documented, and it is certain that the English name comes via this route.

Another possibility is that it is from the Shoshone oyer-un-gon (place of plenty) or ogwa pe-on (river of the west), which was subsequently reanalyzed by Algonquin speakers in the east to mean “beautiful,” and thence into the English and French.

If you actually have earlier evidence of the Spanish calling the place or the river Oregon or Orejones or anything similar, we’d love to see it. It might show a Spanish origin, or strengthen the idea that word comes from Shoshone, with whom the Spanish would have had direct contact.

It is kind of odd that the entrance to San Francisco Bay went undiscovered for so long. However, the telescope hadn’t been invented, and maybe the ships didn’t hug the coast. As a side note, I have a hard time believing Drake beached the ship at Point Reyes for a month of repairs but didn’t get out and about enough to discover one of the largest and most ideal bays in the world. But there’s no record of it.

Point Reyes is a fair distance, at least by sixteenth-century standards (about 30 miles), from the opening to the San Francisco Bay. I have no trouble believing that if he did in fact land at Point Reyes (which is by no means certain), that he wouldn’t have ventured on foot or by small boat as far as the Bay. Also, given the marine layer fog that hangs over the San Francisco Bay for much of the year, it’s perfectly plausible that he might have sailed by it several times without ever noticing it. He was in the area in June 1579, and June is month known for its fog over the Bay.

[ Edited: 13 October 2013 10:48 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 13 October 2013 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Point Reyes is a fair distance, at least by sixteenth-century standards (about 30 miles), from the opening to the San Francisco Bay. I have no trouble believing that if he did in fact land at Point Reyes (which is by no means certain), that he wouldn’t have ventured on foot or by small boat as far as the Bay. Also, given the marine layer fog that hangs over the San Francisco Bay for much of the year, it’s perfectly plausible that he might have sailed by it several times without ever noticing it. He was in the area in June 1579, and June is month known for its fog over the Bay.

Yeah, and as you say it isn’t certain that Point Reyes is where he landed. The record is too scant, apparently, to know what all he did. He is supposed to have dealt with the Native Americans, but given the language barriers, they probably wouldn’t have had a “Hey check out the bay over in that direction” conversation. He’s supposed to have done some exploration, but it’s a bit of a hike to get there and back in one day. It’s nice to think it happened.

Regarding place names, explorers, and bragging rights, Drake’s name for the area, New Albion, didn’t exactly catch on. My main point to Quintana was that the circumstantial evidence doesn’t demand a strong Spanish influence in naming Oregon. They didn’t connect much with that area.

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