Little Rock & Arkansas

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What's In A Name?
There actually is a bunch of little rocks in Little Rock. The Arkansas River runs through the region, starting in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado before flowing through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to the Mississippi River.

There is a large rock formation on the north bank of the river, and a much smaller rock formation on the south bank. French explorers used the two rock formations as landmarks, and named the south formation "La Petite Roche", meaning �the little rock�. When English speakers settled in the area in the early 19th Century, they called their town "Little Rock".

Why is "Kansas" and the last two syllables of "Arkansas" pronounced so differently? The answer is that the two state names derive from two totally different sources. The more intriguing question (which I won't begin to answer) is why are they spelled the same?

"Kansas" comes from the Sioux "Kanza" tribal group which inhabited the region. The word is thought to mean "south wind people", but this is not entirely clear. The French added the 's' ("Kanza" to "Kanzas") to form its plural. English speakers in the region did something quite interesting. The kept the French 's' ending; they changed the middle 'z' to an 's', but they kept the 'z' pronunciation. And so the local river, and the name of the state, became "Kan-Zuhs".

Arkansas was also inhabited by Sioux tribal groups. They were called, phonetically, "OO-Gak-Paw", meaning downstream people. This was appropriate, since they lived downstream of the other Sioux. Ohio Valley tribes referred to these people as "A-kan-za", meaning downwind people.

The French seemingly combined these two Native-American words and came up with "Arkansas". The 's' was added to make the word plural, but the French kept it silent - pronouncing the last syllable "saw". The "why" and "how" the French came up with the rest of the spelling remain somewhat of a mystery.

Early English speakers in the area argued over the spelling and pronunciation. It was as often spelled "Akansea", "Akansa" and "Akansas". Most kept the French pronunciation of the last syllable, as "saw".

When Arkansas was admitted to statehood, its first two senators pronounced the state name differently. One used "AR-kan-SAW", with emphasis on the first and last syllables. The other used "Ar-KAN-SASS", with emphasis on the last two syllables. To limit future confusion, the state legislature adopted an "official" pronunciation, one that it still used today. Officially, the state is "AR-kan-saw".

Don't bother looking for either Little Rock or Arkansas on a map of Texas. You won't find it. Neither is within the State of Texas. Cregeen's of Little Rock, Arkansas is on ClanDonnell's Mess With Texas Tour since it is between Texas and our home state of Michigan, and we're stopping by on our way home.

We promise that we won't litter in Arkansas, or anywhere else for that matter.