Opinion: The Lake Debate: Envelope please

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    LOREN BENOIT/Press Whether you call it Lake Coeur d’Alene or Coeur d’Alene Lake, the view is spectacular.

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    LOREN BENOIT/Press Whether you call it Lake Coeur d’Alene or Coeur d’Alene Lake, the view is spectacular.

Well, we have an answer.

Or answers …


We’ve been asking readers to identify that extremely beautiful body of water just south of downtown Coeur d’Alene.

Identify, as in what is the proper name?

There were enough email and Twitter responses that I feared it would blow up my poor, aging laptop.

And I should tell you that quite a few of these messages were a bit emotional — especially from people who have lived in the area a long time.

So …

Is it Lake Coeur d’Alene? Or Coeur d’Alene Lake?

The only truly accurate thing is to say: It’s both.

Let’s start with one undeniable fact. The actual name was, and remains, Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Our Twitter friend “Angry North Idaho” got to it perfectly.

Oh, I should mention that Angry, whoever this man or woman might be, always tweets in all caps. I’m not going to print it that way — no offense here, but we’re not threatening to bomb Iran or anything.

Now then …

“Do it however you want but this is the official name,” wrote Angry, attaching a link showing a map from the United States Geological Survey.

It clearly designates Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Most longtime residents agreed — but not all of them.

A representative opinion came from Barbara Dennis: “Coeur d’Alene Lake — yes. My family has been here since 1906. Father born here. I am a native.

“Somehow in the 1980s, transplants decided to rename our lake to their liking.”

However, there were rebuttals to that.

“This is how I see it at 80 years old and having lived here for 25 years,” wrote Marcy Desmond.

“Lake Coeur d’Alene is a lake named Coeur d’Alene. Coeur d’Alene Lake is a town named Coeur d’Alene that has a lake. I prefer the first.”

Several people mentioned that Lake Coeur d’Alene rolls off the tongue with a nicer sound, and a few compared it to other famous lakes.

WHETHER or not it was transplants thumbing their noses at locals and changing names willy-nilly that started the name shift, um, we can’t really say. One story has it that a local postcard maker switched the “Lake” position from back to front as a public relations move in the 1950s. At some point, the feeling that Lake Coeur d’Alene sounded better took root — and because this is a resort area, tourists are as likely to have made the Lake Coeur d’Alene reference popular as anyone else.

However much sticklers for the official name might dislike it, most locals now have thrown in with our visitors and gone with Lake Coeur d’Alene.

A lot of newcomers probably would be shocked to know there’s even any question about it.

“It probably makes no difference really where we place ‘Lake’ in the Coeur d’Alene reference,” wrote Kathy Hennigan.

“I for one like Lake Coeur d’Alene. It defines us as something different and special because we live and work near such a grand body of water. It’s like Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada.

“Coeur d’Alene is such a unique community that I feel it deserves that differentiation. Our lake is very special to us.”

Kathy’s take on it is kind of interesting, because it touches on how the name just slowly got reversed.

Lake Coeur d’Alene sounds more special than doing it the other way around.

It just does.

We noted this earlier, but common usage eventually makes any reference “correct,” according to lexicographers.

So, yes, both names are right.

We can respect the original name, and those like the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and early settlers who used it …

And still say Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Case closed, but deep thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion.


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.


Lake Poll

• Lake Coeur d’Alene, 64 percent

• Coeur d’Alene Lake, 25 percent

• Both are OK, 11 percent

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