Date: Sun, 28 Dec 1997 12:05:57 -0500
From: ALICE FABER faber[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]HASKINS.YALE.EDU
| Date: Sat, 27 Dec 1997 16:28:00 EST
| From: AAllan AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
| Subject: Re: Podunk
| Barry is wise to raise the question of the origins of one of the most
| interesting of Americanisms. Perhaps in _America in So Many Words_ we should
| have explicitly credited the "pa" of _American Speech_, H.L. Mencken, for his
| inspiration, in an article in _The New Yorker_ of 25 September 1948 entitled
| "The Podunk Mystery." The intriguing question is, when did "Podunk" become a
| generic? Barry's new citation provides further food for thought.
| For those of you who don't yet have _America in So Many Words_, here's the
| entry for 1846 Podunk:
| It is said to have been a real place in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Long
| Island, upstate New York, Michigan, and Nebraska. But only faint traces of it
| still exist in the 20th century. One authentic trace is just to the northeast
| of Hartford, Connecticut, where the little Podunk River appears on the map to
| this day, emptying into the Connecticut. Another is a rural area some dozen
| miles west of Worcester, Massachusetts, encompassing Quaboag Pond and
| Quacumquasit Pond, long known to the people in the vicinity as Podunk. And for
| a few years in the 19th century, a town in Nebraska officially bore the name
| Podunk until the railroad came through and changed it to "Brock."
I have in my photo album a picture taken by the roadside somewhere in Hartford
County (CT) approximately 7-8 years ago of a sign reading "Podunk River".
Another picture on the roll shows a rather blurry sign, a rather unpretentious
stream, and a carwash which, hopefully, has taken care not to send its runoff
into the Podunk. Unfortunately, neither picture has enough detail to enable me
to re-find the site, though it's probably somewhere northeast of Hartford; a
friend and I were on the way to the airport to pick up some tickets when this
photo op presented itself. My best source of information on where and how to
research Connecticut place names (my sister) is currently in New Zealand, so
that's the limit of information I can provide.