« ForrigeFortsett »
And after toil a soft repose at night.
The prints of her departing steps appear. Having thus conducted the reader to the foundation of Quebec, we conclude the historical sketch of the progress of early discovery and settlement in this part of the North American continent.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORDS CANADA AND QUEBEC
- THE SUFFOLK SEAL.
There are few subjects on which greater ingenuity has been displayed, and more time and labor expended, than on etymology. Every votary of this study has a favorite theory—the fancy runs wild, and even the gravest writers have indited most deliberate nonsense, when led astray by the ignis fatuus of etymological research. The vulgar signs of obscure taverns and ale-houses have not been rejected as subjects for the lucubrations of antiquaries ;-and such uncourtly and degenerate phrases as “ The Bull and Mouth,” and “ The Bag o' nails,” have been restored by antiquarian lore into the historic and classic appellations of " Boulogne Mouth,” and “ The Bacchanals.” Even the SPECTATOR has elevated the old hostelry of Isabella Savage into that of « La Belle Sauvage.” Taking a bolder range, Vallancey has demonstrated, at least to his own satisfaction, that the speech of the Phoenician in the Penulus of Plautus is pure Irish; but the climax of absurdity was reached by an author of the name of Lemon, who, in 1783, published an “English Etymology," the avowed aim of which was to prove, that almost all English words are of Greek origin. This author says, with all the gravity of a man in full possession of his senses, “ There are many words in our language that con
tinue to wear so strange and uncouth an appearance as would require more than Edipus to develope and disentangle from their present intricate and enigmatical disguises. Thus the expressions hot-cockles, scratch-cradle, link-boy, Logle-boe, haut-gout, bon-mot, kick-shaws, Crutched-Friars, and innumerable others can only be explained by their etymologies, every one of which is Greek !!
The force of nonsense could no further the reader may be assured, that the whole work is in strict conformity with this extract: the writer, nevertheless, was a beneficed clergyman, and a man of letters.
The etymology of the names, “ Canada” and “ Quebec,” has been disfigured and encumbered by definitions equally puerile.
uerile. Such fancies were peculiar to the times, which followed the discovery of America. Innumerable were the conceits of the Elizabethan age—the learned plunged without compass into the unknown seas of etymological discovery; and even the wise Bacon, and the severe COKE were addicted to this pursuit. In the age before that, during the time of the bluff King Harry, “ the sovereignest thing on earth” was a name conveyed in a rebus ; and such devices are still seen on the walls and mouldings of the most celebrated of the English Cathedrals. But the sagacious etymologists of former days by no means recognised the necessity of acquaintance with the primitive language of which the words they undertook to explain were composed. They pursued a “royal road” of their own ; and undertook to discover in the Spanish tongue the root of phrases which existed only in the aboriginal speech of the Indian native. Thus the etymons of Canada and Quebec have been sought for, where there was
less probability of finding them than in the languages of Japan and Otaheite!
Father Hennepin, one of those etymological savans, whose labors it were great pity should be lost, tells us that the Spaniards were the first discoverers of Canada ; and that finding in it nothing worthy of their cupidity, they bestowed upon it the negative appellation of “ El capo di nada,”—“ Cape Nothing" --whence by corruption its present name.
La Potherie follows in the same track, and with more particularity recites the same derivation. Charlevoix gives the same story with a little variation. He tells us that the natives of Gaspé frequently repeated the words, “Aca nada”-“Nothing here,” to the French under Jacques Cartier, words which they had received from the Spaniards who had visited them before his time. Charlevoix supposes that the French were thus induced to consider it the name of the country ; but in a note he adds, with some hesitation, another definition, to which we shall have occasion to return, Champlain contents himself with using the word “ Canada” very sparingly, without any notice or hypothesis as to derivation, the appellation of the country being in his time New FRANCE, In the “ Beautés de l'histoire du Canada,” published in Paris
, the same fanciful etymology is given ; but the preferable definition, noticed by Charlevoix, is placed first in order, as deserving greater attention. The derivation of the name “ Canada," as given above, is clearly fanciful. It does not appear in the old writers, and was a weak attempt to derive from the Spanish a word of evident Indian origin. It is, moreover, extremely uncertain whether the Spaniards ever touched at Gaspé, or on any part of the continent; and it seems highly probable that the tradition
itself received currency from the spurious etymology, which rendered it necessary, for the sake of probability, to show that the Spaniards had reached the coast previous to the coming of the French.
Having thus discussed the fanciful derivation of the word, let us consider its more probable source and etymology. Cartier, in whose narrative there is no mention of the words “ Aca nada," as used by the natives of Gaspé, or Baye des Chaleurs, gives the name of “ Canada” indifferently to the whole region which he discovered from the Sault St. Louis to the Gulf of St. Lawrence—to the great River itself—and also to the immediate portion of the country in which he wintered, and of which Donnacona is stated, in page forty-three, to have been Lord, And he does this on the authority of the two native interpreters whom he had originally taken from Gaspé. We conceive it utterly irrational to suppose that, at that early period, the name of Canada was extended over this immense country. The migratory habits of the Aborigines would effectually prevent such a conclusion. They usually distinguished themselves by their different Tribes, called from the name of some wild animal ; but not by the country which they inhabited or hunted over ad libitum, and with all the independence of savage life. They gave rather a name to the locality, than adopted their own from any fixed place of residence. Thus, the Iroquois and the Ottawas added their appellations to the Rivers which ran through their hunting grounds ; and the Huron Tribe, who gave their name originally to the Lake, on the downfall of their ancient dominion-even when confined within the limits which their too powerful enemies had imposed, and living in the midst of another people---still