Idaho—A Nonsense Name?: Background information when reading Idaho

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Idaho

A Novel

by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich X
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva
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About this Book

Idaho—A Nonsense Name?

This article relates to Idaho

Print Review

Shoshone Falls in Idaho In Idaho, Ann muses about a legend surrounding the state's name. She relates a delightful story about a delegate to Congress playing with a little girl named Ida lingering in the House chamber while others discussed proposed names for a new western territory. When the little girl runs away, the man shouts after her, "Ida! Ho! Come back to me." When the Congressmen heard him shout they thought he was suggesting a name. Thinking on his feet, the delegate made up a story about hearing Shoshoni chant the word "idaho" at dawn, and that it meant "gem of the mountains." Congress votes, the name wins by a landslide, and the new territory is slated to be named "Idaho," with Denver as its capital. The lie is soon discovered, and the embarrassed Congress renames the territory "Colorado," only to later apply the fake name to another territory.

The real origin of the name "Idaho" appears to be uncertain. Sources disagree; while the name may have been derived from an Apache word meaning "enemy," it also may have simply been invented by a quirky lobbyist. The legends persisted for years, and school textbooks claimed the erroneous Shoshoni provenance well into the 20th century. There seems to be a good deal of truth to the account that appears in Idaho, but the insertion of the little girl into the story appears to be, as far as I can tell, Ruskovich's creation—fitting for a story about recreated memories.

Picture of Shoshone Falls by Karthik C

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Lucia Silva

This "beyond the book article" relates to Idaho. It originally ran in March 2017 and has been updated for the November 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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