Lac du Nibiinaabe (Chippewa Meaning) “Lake of the Mermaids”
It’s not a very big lake. Truth to be told, it’s not a lake at all. It’s a pond. But it smells like a lake. It has fish and frogs, crayfish and occasional ducks and heron. It attracts turkey and deer for visits, and it calms us like a lake when gentle breezes push its tranquil waters to lap against the dock and shore.
It’s our family’s own personal, private lake, Lac du Nibiinaabe, and it’s part of our world.
Naming the things that make up our world is extensive. We have a habit of naming most everything. Our cars, the rooms in our house, the trees and the gardens on our six acres, they all have names.
I’ve been thinking about how we humans come up with names for our world, and what different people throughout history have called our planet.
Earth, for instance, is from Germanic roots, meaning “dry ground” or “soil,” and anciently seems to have been considered a synonym for Middangeard (i.e., Midgard) or “Middle Earth” or the “Middle World,” which is what ancient Norse people called our world. In this example, the world is named after what it is made up of, or the part that we can live on, anyway. It has become the predominant name for our planet simply because English has become some predominant.
The word “World” is from other Germanic roots, and means “Age of Man,” and names our world after ourselves since we consider ourselves the principal actors in it.
In ancient Greece, THE WORLD was called Gaia, after the Greek chthonic, primordial deity whose body forms our world. The Latin cognate was Terra Mater (“Mother Terra” or “Mother Earth”). In most Latin countries, some variant of “terra” is still the name for our world.
And that’s about the limits of my knowledge and research for the names of our world, but I know there must be other names for it out there.
Which makes me wonder what others call their worlds, and why. I’d mulled over many name suggestions for our lake before we settled on Lac du Nibiinaabe, which takes the French spellings for “lake of” (Lac du) and then refers to a Chippewa legend and story about Nibiinaabe, (water sprites) a.k.a. mermaids. The words in the name have cultural ties to my heritage since Chippewa Indian and Irish ancestry is revealed in the DNA of my blood.
It also got me thinking about the story of the name itself. In our world, We’ve given Lac du Nibiinaabe a story, and we think most names do have such stories behind them. There are many facets to that story, and in many cases, there are two sides: there’s the part that’s the real true history, and there’s the part that’s passed down through our cultural heritage and exchanges as the “learned” history. Sometimes those are the same, sometimes they’re not, and sometimes the cultural story – through no fault of its own fails to get passed down at all.
So… with that opening barrage of our thoughts, what are your thoughts? How do you come up with the names for your world, your things, whatever? Why? Do those names mean anything to you, or to the people who complete your world as you know it? What do they mean, and why?
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I’m Kymberley: former nonprofit director, now full-time blogger. My husband Mark, and I share our rural home in the heart of Central Wisconsin in an area known as “The Holyland.” We love visiting cool places across America, learning about the food, the people, culture, and the local history. Our favorite things are eating great food, dark chocolate, weekend coffee, lazy summer days, all sorts of music, and time with our grandchildren.
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