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Don't pronounce it Ory-GONE!

If you are a visitor to our fine state of Oregon, one of the most grevious errors you can make would be to pronounce the name Ory-GONE. It's ORYgun, and residents won't let you forget it! I remember (long ago) watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. (Yes, there was a time when Dan Rather was just an upstart kid!). The previous evening Walter had done a news story on Oregon, and as most easterners are wont to do, pronounced it Ory-GONE. Well, he must have gotten a snootful of complaints from Oregon residents, because the next night he apologized for his transgression on air, and clarified the pronunciation is ORYgun.

I also remember watching the Phil Donahue show when Donahue interviewed the controversial Abbie Hoffman, one of the infamous Chicago Seven. Hoffman had been in hiding for decades under an assumed name and only recently decided to come public again. This interview just happened to have been conducted during one of Donahue's visits to Portland, Oregon, and was held at the beautiful Washington Park Rose Gardens. Hoffman kept inadvertantly pronouncing the name of the state Ory-GONE, and seemed to not notice the audience shouting back at him, "ORYgun! ORYgun! " As he continued to misprounounce the state name, the audience got louder and louder, which seemed to confuse him. On the other hand, he kept calling Phil Donahue "Merv" (as in Merv Griffin), so I'm rather sure he was a tad confused to start with.

So where did a name like ORYgun... er, Oregon, come from? To this day there is controversy over the name of the state. World Book Encyclopedia states: The Columbia River was at one time called the Oregon or Ouragan, which means hurricane in French. (Anyone who has experienced the peculiar "wind tunnel" effect of the Columbia River Gorge can well believe the hurricane theory. There's a reason this area is the windsurfing capitol of the world!) Others believe the name was derived from a mapmaker's error in the 1700s. The Wisconsin River was named the Ouisconsink and was picked up by travelers referring to the country west of the Great Lakes as Ourigan."

More knowledge of the origin of the word Oregon has surfaced in the last hundred years. Jonathan Carver may have appropriated the word, not the spelling from Major Robert Rogers. Rogers used the form Ouragon or Ouregan in a petition for an exploring expedition into the country west of the Great Lakes. This took place in London is 1765. His petition was not granted. Jonathan Carver is the first person to use the form Oregon in referring to the river of the west that falls into the Pacific Ocean. This report was published in 1778. Neither Vancouver (1778), nor Gray (1778) used the name Oregon by any spelling during their explorations. The name was not used by Lewis and Clark nor Astor's petition to Congress in 1812. Poet William Cullens Bryant, after reading a volume of Jonathan Carver's travels mentioned Oregon in his poem "Thanatopsis" published in 1817. Pioneer travelers headed west to "Oregon, God's fertile land of plenty". So, however the name was derived or created, it stuck, and The Great Migration on the Oregon Trail had begun.


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