Three times in the past week or so, I found myself in conversations about a certain Portland-area island.
I haven’t been there in probably 30 years, but as a kid growing up in Milwaukie I used to go there on occasion, mainly to fish for sturgeon and catfish, both of which I caught, neither of which I ever ate; I’m really not much for fish in general — guess I’d have made a lousy grizzly bear — and especially funny-looking ones.
In all my years living in the Rose City hinterlands, I called the place Sauvie’s Island — pronounced SAW-veez. I called it that because that’s what everyone else called it — everyone, that is, except my brother-in-law Mike, who for some reason went his own way and tended toward “Silvie’s Island.”
I haven’t given the place a ton of thought since I left Milwaukie for college in 1981 and for good in 1985, but I do recall it being pretty cool, and also quite large — 26,000 acres to be exact, or more than double the size of OSU’s research forest, which seems enormous in its own right.
But when different people happen to mention it recently, I started thinking about it — mainly about how to pronounce it, given that in these conversations I had heard both SAW-vee and SO-veez in addition to what I had grown up hearing and saying.
A quick bit of research leads me to believe that Sauvee, sans apostrophe S, is the correct spelling, and SAW-vee is how it’s properly pronounced.
Even knowing that, I admit that by the next time this comes up, I likely will have forgotten what I have learned and will again call it Sauvie’s Island by force of habit.
Elsewhere on the spelling/pronunciation front, right before I started writing this post, a discussion ensued in the newsroom on whether the term for a sure thing is “shoe-in” or “shoo-in.” Jennifer Moody thought it was the latter, whereas my inclination was the former.
Well, everyone has always known Jen is smarter than I am, and city editor Karen Petersen’s research on the matter re-confirmed that.
“What about beckon call, or is it actually beck and call? It is, isn’t it?” I asked.
“It is, but I’m not sure why, because it seems like it ought to be beckon call,” Karen said. “I don’t even know what beck means. Let’s look it up.”
Turns out beck refers to a hand signal motioning someone to come toward you.
“What about by and large, or is it by in large? I think it’s by and large.”
“I think it is too,” she said, “although it’s one of those phrases I don’t use in writing just because I’m not sure.”
Turns out it is by and large, and like many mysterious, hard-to-spell and seemingly nonsense terms, it’s nautical in origin. News clerk Amanda Robbins hunted that info down.
I also learned, from Karen, that bosun is an alternate, and phonetic, spelling of boatswain, which is some kind of maritime position/occupation. And Karen learned that boatswain is the main spelling; she thought bosun was the only spelling.
Like I always say, working in a newsroom is so educational.