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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Penetanguishene, where's the sand?

This sketch shows the name Penetanguishene out by the sand Bar

The name of our small community is one that goes back as far as the late 1700's. Almost without fail the bay is called some form of Penetanguishene. Penetanguisheen, even Penetanguishire was used in maps, but all of similar ilk.

However it seems as like many things the early colonizers of this continent even when we respect the given names we seem to have gotten it slightly wrong. We have long accepted that "The Place of the White Rolling Sands" was the meaning of

Penetanguishene, and I guess we can add that meaning and that word to the Algonquin language as neither is completely true. Algonkian use B sound and not the P sound in their language, so we have Bindaawangisshiinying, which would be far more difficult to spell. However you can see where they got it wrong.

In asking a modern linguist gives us this explanation: Biinidaawangishiinying ― jibwaa miinawaa noongom The name means (At the) Clean Sand Dunes not White Rolling Sands. It is a close translation to White Rolling sands, but have we been misrepresenting ourselves in song and verse. I wonder where he got Abenaki being the origin of the name. I am not sure the local algonkian people knew themselves as abenaki, was it just poetic license? As for the different spelling, well arguing over spelling for a language without writing isn't the wisest thing to do. Did different speakers say it diferent, almost certainly. I don't think the different meanings is that far off each other. Sometimes words do not directly translate perfectly.

In the end it doesn't really matter, legends are born under lesser circumstance.

AC Osborne in says:

Google earth view of sandbar, Here it comes out Green but if in a boat it shows a light color, and clean

THE HISTORIC TOWN OF PENETANGUISHENE, noted as the former site of a British Naval and Military Station in the early days of Canada, is charmingly situated on the eastern shore of a picturesque bay of the same name, a southern extension of Georgian Bay. Penetanguishene signifies "The Place of the White Rolling Sands," so named from an extensive bank of sand on Pinery Point to the right on entering the harbor, which glistens like gold in the summer's sun and which, like the Sand Dunes of Ontario, are ever shifting, changing, rolling to the water's beneath. . .

This poetic designation, which is of A-ben-a-ki origin slightly modified by the exigencies of changing dialects, already swayed its magic scepter over these waters, when the Huron savage first appeared on the scene, and is one of the few names--melancholy relics, sparsely scattered here and there north of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes--which remain, to tell of the Abenaki occupation.

So from this

we advance to the late 1800's when the Railway comes to town. Call your town what you will but we the railway are putting Penetang on our station and signage will say to Penetang.

This name change almost became official, as in the 1930's it was put before town council if the town should remain Penetanguishene, or to shorten it to Penetang. Luckily the original name stuck.

MAtchedash is also an algonkian name, it means windy area, and was once the name of the area we now call Severn Sound. Matchedash is now pushed south and east, but at one point it was more predominant. On the other side of Penetang Peninsula we have Nottawasaga Bay, which was probably more closely pronounced Nottawasague, to follow the early spelling. Nottawasaga seems to come from :Place names of Georgian Bay by James White

*NOTTAWASAGA. — Bay, Simcoe; Nottaway (or Nadowa) 'adders' — a name applied by various Algonquin tribes to a number of their neighbouring and most detested enemies — sag or sank 'outlet' (of a river). On Bouchette's map, 181 5, the western portion is called "Iroquois Bay. Ok they tried right!

Mrs Maitland and Tiny Tay and Flos By Elizabeth Birnie

Now these seem to be more noble names to the townships of Tiny Tay and Flos, which were Mrs Peregrin Maitland's (the Governor's wife) lap dogs. But not as cool as Go home Bay, which was called that for when the loggers coming down with the winter logs reach that bay, it was time to go home for another season.

Some people will tell you that it was Simcoe's dog. Even that it was written in a text book as such but Simcoe had a Newfoundlander. Jack Sharp was his name, and while lost the thought of eating him came up before finally finding their way back to Civilization, and civility, of York.

So Jack Sharp or Tiny township?

Art Duval

Pipesmoke of the Past

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