National Geographic : 1896 Jul
WORK OF THE BOARD ON GEOGRAPHIC NAMES 227 name had a final h or not. The board at one stroke relieved the American public of this necessity by striking off the h in every case. The same thing was done with the termination ugh of borough and for the same purpose. Similarly the word centre is now uniformly spelled center wherever it appears as a part of a geographic name. There is one other class of names to be considered, that is, names in remote, unsettled parts of the country, where there is no local usage. These are mainly of Indian origin, and they may be said to be still in an unsettled state, like the country in which they are found. How do we obtain Indian names? The spelling given to an Indian name represents the way in which some white man understood some Indian to pronounce it, and every one knows that in such a case there will be just as many different spellings of an Indian name as there are white men to hear it and Indians to pronounce it. From our Northwest we could, if space permitted, give hundreds of such names, each of them with a dozen or perhaps twenty different versions, and each version just as correct as any other. In such cases the board selects from among the different versions the one which seems to represent the sound the most clearly and most simply. Early in the life of the board a long list of Alaskan names was submitted to it for decision. These names were referred by the board to some half-dozen gentlemen, all of whom were known as Alaskan geographers, and the subsequent decisions were based upon the weight of evidence submitted by these specialists. Of course, the decisions did not in all cases please all persons ac quainted with Alaskan names. In the matter of names in unsettled countries under foreign jurisdiction, the policy of the board has been to accept the spell ing of the nation having jurisdiction there. The work involved in making these decisions is in the main simple in character. Although much of it involves investiga tion, it is common every-day investigation, consisting mainly in finding out what people call themselves. The matters with which the board are concerned are not, as a rule, scientific mat ters. They are simply matters of fact or judgment. The board is often criticised for inconsistency in its decisions; with having decided one way in one case and a different way in another case which appears to be quite similar. I think the board is quite ready to plead guilty to the charge of inconsistency, but with extenuating circumstances, since consistency in certain matters involves inconsistency in others.