| Of course Indian names are more fitting than
any others for our beautiful lakes and rivers, which knew their race ages
ago, perhaps, in the morning of creation, but let us have none so repulsive
to the ear as "Tahoe" for the beautiful relic of fairy-land forgotten
and left asleep in the snowy Sierras when the little elves fled from their
ancient haunts and quitted the earth. They say it means "Fallen Leaf"--well
suppose it meant fallen devil or fallen angel, would that render its hideous,
discordant syllables more en durable? Not if I know myself. I yearn for
the scalp of the soft-shell crab--be he injun or white man--who conceived
of that spoony, slobbering, summer-complaint of a name. Why, if I had a
grudge against a half-price nigger, I wouldn't be mean enough to call him
by such an epithet as that; then, how am I to hear it applied to the enchanted
mirror that the viewless spirits of the air make their toilets by, and hold
my peace? "Tahoe"--it sounds as weak as soup for a sick infant.
- "Bigler vs. Tahoe," Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, September 1863
Dave Thomson collection.
Picture of Lake Tahoe, from 1899 edition of ROUGHING IT
Bigler is the legitimate name of the Lake, and it will be retained until some
name less flat, insipid and spooney than "Tahoe" is invented for it.
I am sorry, myself, that it was not called in the first place by some cognomen
that could be persuaded to rhyme with something, because, you see, every sentimental
cuss who goes up there and becomes pregnant with a poem invariably miscarries
because of the unfortunate difficulty I have just mentioned. I speak of the
matter lightly, but it is not a frivolous one, for all that. A very beautiful
thing was once written by a distinguished English poet about our royal river
at home, but the loveliness was all mashed out of it by the stress of weather
to which he was obliged to succumb in order to gouge a rhyme out of its name.
He had called it "Mississip!"!
- News report to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise written February 12, 1864
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