Thursday, January 20, 2005

How "Embarrass"-ing

I'm glad someone else was wondering how the town of Embarrass, Minnesota (of recent 54 degrees below zero fame) got its name. More specifically, I'm glad Brendan I. Koerner of Slate's "Explainer" column had the same question and provided the answer.

During the 17oos, French priests and fur trappers, along with French-Canadian lumberjacks had trouble navigating the river running through that part of Minnesota. As a result, they called the area Rivière d'Embarras, which translates into "River of Obstacles" or "River of Obstructions." The name evolved into the Embarrass River, and when the Finnish settled in around the early 1900s, they liked the name (perhaps not knowing what the English translation meant) and kept it. Oui oui, Mr. Koerner.