Friday, August 17, 2012

Knapsack 8-23

Notes From My Knapsack 8-23-12

Jeff Gill


It's time we had a talk



This is awkward.


I know this will just make us both uncomfortable, and leave me sounding like the weird one, but I feel this needs to be discussed.


It's the county name.


You know what it is. You've had relatives, when you pull your car into the drive, read the sticker on your license plate, and look at you with an arched eybrow: Really?


Yes, that's the county name, you reply, perhaps adding "it's because of salt licks that used to attract animals that the Indians and pioneers hunted."


I wrote in these pages not long ago that my study of the earliest mentions of the Licking River seems to point us to Spring Valley here in Granville, and Salt Run, with prehistoric mounds near some very early historic earthworks that are all that's left of a salt works, trying to extract and dry some of this precious commodity that otherwise would have to be purchased with the cash money that was in such short supply in the earliest decades of the 1800s.


Bob Neinast, aka "Barefoot Bob" (long story, but you can find his blog online; he likes to hike all over in his barefeet) told me, as we walked with a group a few weeks back around the circuit of the Newark Earthworks, that his research had made him lean towards "Licking" being derived from the Lenape (Delaware) language, as Hock-hocking meant "bottle-shaped" (actually gourd-shaped) which gave rise to the Hocking River.


His argument is that a Lenape word for "sandy, gravelly bottomed river" would have easily transformed into "Licking" which echoed nicely our Hocking neighbors one watershed to the south. The story of salt licks was a "folk etymology" which was a later imposition.


He actually hasn't convinced me, but I think it's a good enough argument to go alongside of the "Salt Run" connection to Granville to account for the 1800-era label "Licking County" to both the watershed and the new political entity that was born off of Fairfield County in 1808.


In 1808, apparently, whatever it originally meant, the label "Licking" didn't have the snicker factor it does now. Our county government wisely created the website "" or we'd probably activate some web blocker programs. Other organizations do some headstands to find a name or designation that doesn't use the county name, or if they have to, they go to an acronym as fast as possible.


Licking County. We don't think about it, because that's how we deal with it. Nerk, Ahia jokes about their name, or at least the pronunciation of it, all the time. Jokes about "Licking"? It's almost too easy, if not too . . . well.


So I have a thought. The river is what the river is, and will carry the name rolling down to Blackhand Gorge for generations to come. But for the county, and for all the business and industry and civic groups that edge uneasily around our name in a governmental sense, why not make a change?


It will cost a little money in signage and paperwork, but not much letterhead gets printed up anyhow. We could have a transition period and use up the old.


Because my suggestion would be: Legend County. We've had the tag "Land of Legend" for many decades, going back at least to the 70's, tying together ancient earthworks, amazing flint deposits, pioneer tales and the growth of unique industrial ventures. Legend County – it would leave Licking County in exactly the same place in an alphabetical list, which is no small matter, and would reduce the concerns non-county folk might have about what has to be changed.


A name change, subtle yet eloquent, that might just pay for itself if even one company chooses to locate here that wasn't going to, because the CEO thought "I just don't want to have to keep explaining the word "Licking" in our company paperwork to people who've never been here."


Legend County. It's got a ring to it, doesn't it?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; he's not sure how serious he is about this, either. Contact him at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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