An orthographical mystery for you to solve

Russell Street, Madoc

The leafy corner of Queen Victoria Street and Russell Street in Madoc, Ont. Or – wait a minute – should it be Russel Street? I need you to help me get to the bottom of this.

So I have some excellent news on the spelling front. And what’s more, I have a Madoc mystery for you to help me solve!

First, the excellent news.

In a post about three months ago, I complained bitterly about the misspelling on the sign for a prominent building in Madoc, to wit:

Badly spelled sign on the Madoc Resource Centre

And I asked plaintively: “Will someone PLEASE fix the spelling on this sign?”

Well, I’m happy to report that Jean McDonnell of the Central Hastings Support Network – an organization that does all kinds of good things in the community, including operate the food bank and provide a transportation service, and that operates out of the Resource Centre – got right on the case and has seen to it that “Resourse” becomes “Resource.” Just look:

The Resource Centre, Madoc

Well done, Jean! Clearly this is a woman who knows how to get things accomplished.

And now for the mystery. In an email in response to that first post, Sally Gale of Queensborough – who also works with the Central Hastings Support Network – wondered about the spelling of Russel St. on the same sign. She said:

“I have another conundrum for you – as your post was talking about Russell St – is it Russell or Russel? There is a sign (I believe it is at the junction with St. Lawrence W) that spells it Russel, but I think most signs are Russell. [Then she explains that she was working on a project that involved a directory of addresses, where the question came up] and got into deep water on the subject – never really did get top the bottom of it, so just asked the residents involved which spelling they preferred. They went for Russell and were adamant this is correct but a very reliable source … insists it is Russel after a family of this name. I will leave this one with you…”

Intriguing! So of course I put on my gumshoes and went out to do some sleuthing. And sure enough, one finds the name of this major street in Madoc spelled both ways, all over the place. At the top of this post, it’s Russell; but look here, at this sign at one of the main intersections in Madoc:

Russel Street, Madoc

And there are several other examples. It is of course Russel on the Resource Centre sign, but on this sign just up the street it’s not:

Russell Street with two l's

So what gives, people of Madoc? What’s the proper spelling of your street?

20 thoughts on “An orthographical mystery for you to solve

  1. Jus t checked in Belden’s Atlas. A map prior to 1876 (9 chains to the inch), clearly calls it RUSSEL STREET. That, dear hearts , is the answer.

  2. A chain is composed of 10 links and is 66 ft. Don’t ask me how many metres. As a matter of interest, all old twp. road allowances are 66 ft. wide. I know a man in Madoc who has a surveyors chain. And guess what? Each link is 6.6 ft in length. It is an old English measure, reported to have been used in the British colonies. Quaint eh?

    • That is amazing, Gayle and Grant. Just imagine the surveyors going through the backwoods of Hastings County with those chains! I would love to see the one you know of sometime. And it’s funny – now that you mention it, I realize that somewhere way, way down in the recesses of my memory I knew that township road allowances were 66 feet wide. Maybe I picked that information up back in my days as a cub reporter covering meetings of Hope Township council, approximately a millennium ago.

  3. We need you in Limerick Township, Katherine, to right a spelling wrong in our own backyard. There is a former school building on Hwy 620 that has been turned into a community centre named, appropriately enough, The Limerick Centre. At least it was named that till a new sign was erected that beamed out the words The Limerick Center. To make matters worse, the sign on the building that consisted of individual letters was rearranged to match the American spelling on this new sign near the roadway. Bringing this to the attention of Limerick Township has produced no results. Maybe we’ll have to sneak over there one night and at least rearrange those letters on the building!

  4. As a world-renouned editor with substantial experience in ‘writing’ (I know… just a joke) spelling ‘wrongs’ in Hastings County, your presence would indeed be a force to reckon with. Perhaps the mere mention of the possibility of your appearance might stir-up some action!

  5. We appreciate all your support for our local spelling cause. I’ll keep you informed of future action! And with 3 of the 5 remaining century buildings in Ormsby being churches, current or past, perhaps the tune to ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ has the right combination of heritage and determined rhythm going for it.

    • “Onward Christian Spellers?” “Onward Canadian Spellers?” I think we’re on to something:

      Onward Canadian spellers, marching as to war,
      With our great tradition going on before.
      “re” is our spelling, “er” just won’t do,
      We are not America-a-ns, and you know that’s true…

  6. I’m told my reaction to your stirring verse is spelled LOL these days. I may have to pass that along. Excellent work!

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