Monday, April 18, 2005

Good luck with that

A California man has petitioned the federal govermnet to rename the San Franciso Bay Area’s Mt. Diablo. The name, he says, is offensive to his personal religious sensibilities.

Art Mijares applied to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for the change and suggests naming the mountain Mount Kawukum, which he believes has American Indian roots.

The name Kawukum first surfaced in 1866, when a church group tried to change Mount Diablo's name for reasons nearly identical to Mijares', according to San Francisco Bay area researcher Bev Ortiz.

"We abhor the wicked creature to whom the name is appropriate, and spurn the use of the name for anything noble or good on earth," proclaimed the Congregational Church of San Francisco in its newsletter of the day.

The church proposed Kawukum, spelled then as Kahwookum, "a word learned from an unidentified Indian living at the base of the mountain," Ortiz wrote in a history of the mountain's name. "Despite the fact that church members could not communicate clearly with their consultant, they presumed that 'Kahwookum' meant 'Everything seen' or 'very nearly Pilot Mountain.'"
Now, Mt. Diablo was named through a linguistic accident when English-speaking newcomers mistakenly assumed the word "monte" to mean "mountain." A Spanish military expedition had given the name to a willow thicket near the mountain.

Evidently since the mountain's current name resulted from a mistake we might as well choose another name that may or may not be of American Indian roots, without bothering to determine what, if anything, is the meaning of the new name. Assuming, of course, anyone other than Mr. Mijares really wants to change the name.