Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

For me, just saying the word "Chincoteague" is relaxing....   If you grew up there, or grew up near there, you don't even think about how you pronounce the word; it's just there, a given.  If you want to say  the word properly and you're not a native, the first thing to realize is that Chincoteague is a Native American word.  A part of the Algonquin empire, the Gingoteague Indians, a sub-tribe of the Accohannocks, lived and thrived on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  They, even though separated by the Chesapeake Bay, were followers of the chief of an alliance of Tsenacommacah tribes that we white folks christened "Powhatan".  The chief's name was apparently Wahunsenacawh.  However, he is Powhatan, and his daughter is Pocahontas, in American history books.
  Forget that that the island of Chincoteague begins with the letters C and H.  Think "sch", or even "zh", though the sch is a lot closer...  Think three syllables.  Think of the cadence of the three syllables in Tennessee.  The middle e in Tennessee is almost a null sound - it's not a really well-defined sound, neither a, e, i, o, u or y - not quite an uh, but neither is it an eh.   The o in Chincoteague is another null sound - not quite an oh, but not quite an ah, either....  The last syllable of Chincoteague gets the hard accent - teeg.  The o in the middle gets the softest. Then the first syllable must be considered - it's not Chin, but it is Chinc.  You have a sink in your bathroom.  The first syllable of Chincoteague is pronounced "schink"; so the whole word is "schink" a "teeg", like Ten a see.  
   In any event, the island consists of 9.1 square miles of land, most of it being marsh, marsh mud and sand bars.  It has been incorporated, so the entire area covers 37.3 square miles, the rest of it sea water.  In the 2010 United States Census, Chincoteague had 2,941 full time residents.  If you can trace your family history on the island for more than 100 years, it's a pretty good bet that you are related to at least 80% of the original, old settler families.  Chincoteague's main income is now from tourism, and almost everyone is friendly and out-going.  But in some ways Teaguers can be very insular - and if you buy a house on the island, and have lived there year round for 40 or more years, you might live down the "Come here" nickname - but I wouldn't guarantee it.   

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