So What’s In a Name?

While we realize this might not rise to the National news, we live here and our identity is at stake. Small wonder that this debate consumes us all.

One thing all York Staters have in common is Indian. American Indian that is. And specifically The Iroquois Confederacy. [Remember the Six Nations from High School history?]

What we know for sure is that after the American Revolution we were broke, so we gave away land grants in Upstate New York to everybody we owed money to. As an aside we also know the beaurocratic clerk who drew up the maps was an aficionado of Roman History. [Thus all the Brutus’s and Cato’s and Marcellus’s.] We also know that the owners of the Land Grants didn’t want them, so they sold them. Cheap.

Thus, people bought the then-cheap land and starting in 1795, moved here in droves and re-settled the Indian villages and in many cases kept the names. For most of you, this is not a Big Deal. Happily, you live in a Genesee,or Cayuga, or Onondaga. Not so for us; we have an identity crisis in the StoryBook Village.

Is it Skan-E-At-Las or Skinny-Atlas? We have also seen or heard: Skaneatelis, Skanapolis, Skanateles, Scaneatles, Skaneatles, Skanetelas, Skaneatlas, Skaneatelas, Skaneatele, Skan-e-a-ties and of course, Skana-telles.

I have lived here for 56 years and I say SKAN-E-AT-LES. So does the Village website and the Historical Society and the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language. BUT… many locals say Skinny. Is a simple matter that 5 syllable words are difficult to pronounce after several beers? Any linguists out there?

Further, we cannot agree amongst ourselves about the Indian derivation meaning.

Conventional wisdom is that it means: “long,beautiful lake” but there is another argument it means: “long, lanky squaw who likes to make of babies”. Ha! I like the latter.