What’s in a name?
Since I’m an unabashed Saranac Lake chauvinist, there’s no doubt what’s my favorite town. But what’s my second favorite?
I’ve never been secretive about that either, but in case you didn’t know, it’s Tupper Lake.
I have a raft of reasons, but primarily it’s my friends there, which I’m proud to say is a bunch of ’em.
While making friends in Tupper isn’t the equivalent of cleaning the Augean Stables, it can still be a laborious undertaking.
It’s not that Tupper Lakers are unfriendly, but in my experience they’re slow to warm up to strangers. So if that’s the case, how did I accumulate so many chums? It has to do with The Dope’s Rule Of Critical Friendship Mass. Simply put, according to TDROCFM, if you make friends with someone who has lots of friends, within a short time a bunch of his friends will also be yours. In Tupper, it’s a family thing.
While not all Tupper Lakers have huge families, a lot of them do. So while some of the families can’t match Ibrahim Njoya, they can give him a good run for his money. Make friends with a Frenette, a Reandeau and a Demerais, and if in a year you don’t have 100 friends from those clans, there’s something wrong with you. Luckily for me, I have friends among the aforementioned as well as the Marouns, so when it comes to Tupper pals, my dance card is full.
Not all of my Tupper friends come from big families. The two who first spring to mind are Pat Bentley and Stuart Nichols, the Knights Errant of P-2’s, through whom I gained entree into Tupper’s demimonde. I try to meet up with them a couple times a month to keep my Tupper creds current and to catch up on the latest haps. And of course the latest hap was the Great River Pig Shtuss of ’19.
If you haven’t followed it (and I can’t imagine that anyone in the Tri-Lakes with an arch sense of humor hasn’t), it took place over what to name Tupper’s minor league baseball team, which’ll be out of their dugout and on the diamond next summer.
The first name offered for the team was River Pigs. This led to a hue and cry by folks that the name was, if not offensive, then not flattering, either. That, in turn, led to an open election to see what the Voice of the People said. Among the choices were River Drivers, Axemen, River Otters, Tupper Timbers, Rowdy Bucks and Mighty Hemlocks. The vote wasn’t even close. Out of 639 ballots cast, the River Pigs swept it with 448. By contrast, the second-place River Drivers squeaked a mere 124.
Though I had my favorite name, I had no personal investment in the vote’s outcome. But the whole process was what I love about Tupper, namely its community spirit and engagement.
The Enterprise pointed out some interesting statistics. While 639 people had turned out to vote for the team name, only 380 voted in the last school board election. Which shows how invested my second-favorite town is in this issue. And more power to ’em!
As for the name River Pigs itself? As far as I’m concerned, not only is there nothing derogatory about it, but it’s a name Tupper, with its history of logging, should shout to the rafters.
The river pigs were the men who ran the log drives down the rivers in the spring. They worked in two-boat crews. The first crew went downriver first, clearing any obstacles that’d hang up the logs as they rushed down. The second boat followed, breaking up the log jams that inevitably occurred, using only poles and peaveys. The work took enormous amounts of skill, stamina and, to use the Quebecois phrase, “beaucoup chutzpah” — things all river pigs had in spades.
The term itself is a perfect example of guy humor, using unflattering terms as compliments. It’s a form of understatement — the words showing the contrast far more graphically than if flattering terms were used. The Navy was famous for it. For example, the boatswain’s mates were universally known as Deck Apes. The connotation, of course, was they were a bunch of barely human lugs. The truth was they did the worst and most strenuous work on ships, and as a group were the hardest of the hard-cores. It was something the rest of us knew and appreciated. Maybe we could’ve done their jobs, but we were glad we didn’t have to. So “Deck Ape,” rather than a pejorative term, was really one of respect. And while I’m sure there were some Deck Apes who objected to the label, I’m also sure more of them wore it with pride.
Likewise, I hope Tupper Lakers will cheer on their team with pride and, in classic old-time Tupper fashion, with a resounding “Mo-jee River Pigs!”
I also hope we’re as fortunate as Tupper, in that we get a chance to pick our own name for our minor league team — a chance we were never given.
I mean, the Surge? Really? The hell is that?
The only images it brings to my mind are a blast of unwanted electricity or a tsunami, One trashes your computer; the other trashes your whole village. Yeah, right, those are things I want to identify with.
Then there are words that rhyme with it. Which are nothing to shout about either: Dirge? Purge? Scourge?
Let’s face it, folks, between us and Tupper, when it comes to team names, we got stuck with the short end of the peavey.