Saturday, April 10, 2010

J is for Jingwak

ust about as far northwest as you can get in the State of Michigan, like eleventy billion miles northwest of Detroit and a little less than eleventy billion miles from Lansing, actually lying across the border with northern Wisconsin, sits a tiny little swampy seepage lake called Jingwak Lake.  Jingwak Lake has always captured my imagination because it is small, it seems to be uninhabited, and the name always seemed so just silly to me.  Jingwak.  That sounds like one of those words that you would say if you meant to swear but you couldn't because there were little children about.  Jingwak.  It doesn't even sound like a Native American word, which is where a lot of geographic features and places (such as Michigan and Wisconsin) get their names in that part of the world.  It's not even like I would expect it to be spelled: Jingwak.  I would expect it to be spelled J-I-N-G-W-H-A-C-K.  That makes more sense to my English speaking mind, although English never has made sense so I don't know what that means.
     Anyway, when I found out through my many, many sources in this world that Lake Jingwak was a tepid little swamp lake I just couldn't make fun of it enough.  I say the name all the time.  Whenever something is either good or bad or just sort of messed up I say it's "jingwak" and now it just sort of rolls off the tougue.  Sometimes I just run up to Dr. J and whisper it into the air like I am Charles Foster Kane whispering "Rosebud."  Very dramatical as Miss VIP would say.  So it's there all the time in my life, and whenever I go around saying it in public people probably think that I need a helmet or something.  But then I found something out.
     Seems that "Jingwak" is a family name, which makes sense to me.  The family probably owned all the land surrounding or on one shore of the lake at one time and named at after themselves, because it's not really the sort of place that is significant enough to warrant a name just because of itself.  So I get and all is well.  Congratulation Jingwak Family, you have a geographical feature named after you, which is more than I can say for me because I don't think we are going to see a Big Dave and Company.com lake or river or slough anytime soon.
     The problem here, though, is that it seems that a member of the Jingwak family gave his life for service of our country, in some sort of conlict.  I believe it was one of the two World Wars, but I am not exactly sure.  I just hear that his name appears on a veteran's memorial somewhere.  You know, one of those places where they etch the names of the fallen community members in stone and put it on a nice statue or something.  So...well, that sort of throws my business into an uproar.  I am not so much into making fun of veterans, especially those who didn't come back from those distant lands, and so by extension I really wonder if I should be making fun of lakes that are named after them. 
     Jingwak as it turns out might be an Ojibwe word for a pine tree, so now maybe it DOES have a Native American name, and maybe that's where the family got its name from, and now I am totally mocking, albeit unintentionally and sort of by proxy, both veterans AND Native American culture.  So what I am I going to do?  How am I going to remedy this situation?  I suppose that I could just stop saying "Jingwak."  But it's not that easy, it has sort of become ingrained as a part of my vocabulary and it would be a lot like trying not to say "peanut butter" anymore.  I suppose that I could cross my fingers every time I say it but I am forgetful and you know, that probably would never happen with regularity.  I could just - in my heart and mind - not mean it as being something mocking.  It could just be a collection of syllables and letters that makes a certain sound.  It's all about the meaning I suppose.  Jingwak.

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