Bigler v. Tahoe

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/September 4, 1863

I hope some bird will catch this Grub the next time he calls Lake Bigler by so disgustingly sick and silly a name as “Lake Tahoe.” I have removed the offensive word from his letter and substituted the old one, which at least has a Christian English twang about it whether it is pretty or not.

Of course Indian names are more fitting than any others for our beautiful lakes and rivers, which knew their race ages ago, perhaps, in the morning of creation, but let us have none so repulsive to the ear as “Tahoe” for the beautiful relic of fairy-land forgotten and left asleep in the snowy Sierras when the little elves fled from their ancient haunts and quitted the earth. They say it means “Fallen Leaf”—well suppose it meant fallen devil or fallen angel, would that render its hideous, discordant syllables more endurable? Not if I know myself.

I yearn for the scalp of the soft-shell crab—be he injun or white man—who conceived of that spoony, slobbering, summer-complaint of a name. Why, if I had a grudge against a halfprice nigger, I wouldn’t be mean enough to call him by such an epithet as that; then, how am I to hear it applied to the enchanted mirror that the viewless spirits of the air make their toilets by, and hold my peace? “Tahoe”—it sounds as weak as soup for a sick infant. “Tahoe” be— forgotten! I just saved my reputation that time. In conclusion, “Grub,” I mean to start to Lake Bigler myself, Monday morning, or somebody shall come to grief.