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Bogus Bivouac name origins #1586
Back To Discussion List Written: 2006.08.21 by: Glenn Woodsworth

This post is a variant on the "Bullshit Names" and related discussions of a while back. Yesterday, while browsing the database I came across the following entry for Mt. Ney (an attractive mountain in the Nanika Lake area, for those unfamiliar with it):

Orign: "Marshall Ney (1769 - December 7, 1815) was a marshal of the French army who fought in the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars. He fought first for Napoleon, then later when the monarchy was restored ...." blah blah for many more words.

I'm sorry, but this origin is fiction, simply a product of Robin's mind. The name is for Charles S. Ney, a very fine individual who died in 1975.

I don't fault Robin for being unable to track down the proper origin of this name, although the origin has been published in (non-government) sources. But I do point the finger for fabricating an origin for the name. The problems don't end there: both Mike Cleven and I have pointed out other fictitious origins for various names. All this is over and above the capricious, arbitrary, and pointless naming of peaks such as "Pluto Peak" in the same region, for which Robin gives the orign "Named for the planet Pluto, according to the planets theme of the area." But the Java map shows no other "planets" within 40 km of "Pluto".

Robin has written in various Mountain Naming Policy documents:

The geological survey made up hundreds of names because they control the government maps. This statement shows a lack of understanding of the basic principles of how formal names are assigned. By the way, the "geological survey" (presumably Robin means the federal one) does not control the government maps. Geographic names, with some exceptions, are a provincial matter currently controlled in B.C. by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

The names in Bivouac come from a variety of sources - old guidebooks, editors, CAJ, and numerous have been suggestions that originated at Bivouac, including ones I have assigned. My criteria for adopting a name is primarily based on how good a name it is... How good? What about the proliferation on Bivouac of dozens (hundreds?) of bad names such as Pluto, Boron (a most unlikely place to find any boron minerals), or Chlorine (origin given as element #17 in the periodic table, but possibly a take-off on nearby Mt. Clore?)

Anybody has the right to name anything they want to discuss, and that doesn't make them a god or anything. Fine with me. But, although much of the basic data in the Bivouac database such as location, elevation, and prominence data now seems very strong and robust, I find the "suggested" names data to be often capricious, incorrect, a laughing stock and something to be upset about. Personally, I cannot rely on the "suggested" names as a useful or reliable source of information.

What to do? A simple start would be to change "Name status: Suggested" to "Name status: Suggested by Bivouac editors" or "Informal: published in CAJ" or "Informal: In local use in the region". Four or 5 such categories should suffice and would go some ways towards restoring credibility in this part of the database.

- Glenn Woodsworth

(certainly never a god, but former Member of the Geographic Board of Canada, representing the Alpine Club of Canada and the Geological Survey of Canada and with 40 years passionate interest in place names.)


Comments

#767 - 2006.09.14 Glenn Woodsworth - Thanks, Robin
Robin, thanks for the changes and for your comments on this discussion. I do believe that you are truly trying to do a good job and, on the whole, I think you are doing a generally very fine job, and showing this flexibility is part of this fine job.

There are lots of poor names out there, some official, some used in guidbooks or journals, and some used by locals. Veeocee Mountain (official) is one. Ride-in (unofficial) is another. I've been responsible for what in hindsight I think are some poor names; some of these are now official, some aren't and I hope never will be.

I've learned that naming things is complex and many factors enter into the process. What works for one person or group of people may not work for others (look at some of the stupid names parents give their children; the parents must think they are great, even if the rest of the world is dubious). Years ago I thought that Alcyone (proposed by Culbert and me) was a better choice than Weeskinisht for the highest of the Seven Sisters; now I think Weeskinisht is much better. (But Alcyone was better than Sister Two, which was what it was called for years.) It's all a matter of taste. Tastes may change with time and certainly cannot be legislated, either by government, Bivouac, or guidebook writers.

#766 - 2006.09.12 Jordan Peters - Right Direction
Thank you, Robin, for the initiative shown by responding to members' concerns over this issue.

I would like to respond to your rhetorical query: "People say they 'can't rely on the names' in Bivouac. This seems to imply that Bivouac names are inferior to names created by other sources like outward bound, CAJ articles, etc. Why?"

Well, I think we need to face the fact that as comprehensive and groundbreaking as Bivouac is, as a web-based database it is prey to instant editorial whimsy and politics. I.e. it is transient and highly malleable, as this very discussion illustrates perfectly. As a result, it, along with most other such creations without hard print copy, is readily perceived to be unreliable.

You are of course entirely correct that Ride-In and other "in-joke" names are just as specious as anything created here. However, they exist in a printed record. Is this an empty distinction? To some degree, sure. I don't entirely agree with this perception, yet it is the prevailing cultural sentiment. Vellum lasts and is hard to screw with.

#765 - 2006.09.12 Robin Tivy - Peaks have been unnamed
I have taken the names off the peaks that have been mentioned. For example, the peak previously named Chlorine now has the Bivouac name of "Clore SW5". Also many of the peaks named after popular Beatles songs have gone back to their previous relative names such as Elusive SW3. The reason I did this was to attempt to reach common ground with important editors such as Greg Jones and Glenn Woodsworth, who have done a lot of work on the encyclopedia. I am hoping that they in turn will give some support for some of the better suggested names.

Having done that, I think it is worthwhile for me to respond to some of the arguments. The main thing I hope people can acknowledge in any discussion of the naming process is that we are truly trying to do a good job. I think in any discussion, I hope that people can start off by acknowledging that some of the names created by previous guidebooks are not really great names (Eg: "NotGott" and "Gotcha" and "Ride-In" peak.) Or the "mystery peak" created by Outward bound. We can do just as well as these!

The goal is to have some simple and universally meaningful names for some of the peaks we want to discuss. These peaks are not vast unnamed, meaningless wastelands, waiting to be logged. Having names are part of a means of preserving them. This is a fact well known by Western Canada Wilderness and other groups. For example "Great Bear Rainforest", not TFL 39.

I hope everybody can acknowledge that the encyclopedia has a fairly well documented criteria as to whether or not to adopt a given name. A lot of thought has gone into it. Ride-In peak was not adopted, because it does not meet our standards. The problems with it are documented in the Case Studies document. Ride-In or Rhyydin Peak is self referential, an inside joke, and not agreed upon by Fairley and the CAJ. So I rejected it. Any discussion of this decision should start by acknowledging the weaknesses of the name.

I don't share the view that the names are somehow holy because they were thought up on a whim by the first people who flew into the area. What I think is that we want names that have some accessable meaning for all Canadians. Not inside jokes whose meaning is only accessable to a small few.

People say they "can't rely on the names" in Bivouac. This seems to imply that Bivouac names are inferior to names created by other sources like outward bound, CAJ articles, etc. Why?

In summary, I will bend over backwards to adopt only suggested names that people think are good names. And in dozens of cases, names have been dropped because someone thought there was a problem with it. But I certainly don't want to go back to a huge inventory of meaningless, numbered peaks.

#751 - 2006.08.28 Shelley Wales - good suggestion
Glenn, I like your sugestion:

"What to do? A simple start would be to change "Name status: Suggested" to "Name status: Suggested by Bivouac editors" or "Informal: published in CAJ" or "Informal: In local use in the region". Four or 5 such categories should suffice and would go some ways towards restoring credibility in this part of the database."

Not only would it be less confusing (I myself am easily confused by the whole naming thing) it would add interest and therefore value.

#749 - 2006.08.24 Greg Jones - A few thoughts
I agree with a lot of what you have said here Glenn. I too have a major problem with what I view as irresponsible geographic input. In Robin's defense, he and I have exchanged a number of (lengthy) emails about this topic, and he has been very open to suggestion. He even kept the exchanges civil, when it threatened (usually on my part) to be just the opposite. He also said he would stop the naming for now.

My problem with this subject is the general complexities within it. We commonly use suggested names from Fairley, Hut logs, mountaineering schools (Outward Bound), FA's, mountaineering club camps (see Bendor/Kwoiek/Raccoon...), suggestion etc. How come some names are accepted and some not? My views also lose points on what "I" considered acceptable. I did not mind the low prominence peaks on the Squa/Cheak divide to be named on the "alcohol" theme, but was infuriated by the naming of several peaks around the greater Lillooet area based on Beatles songs!! This area has a great importance to me, and to bring up the java map and see, what I viewed as a great atrocity towards geography, was too much! Contradictory?

An example of my main contention with the policies that Robin had written, was a peak dubbed "Ride-in Peak" in Fairley's. Robin told me he did not like the name...it was not a "good" name. The problem is that it will eventually get a suggested name that is considered a good name. This was named by the FA party, and had a neat story to go along with that name. How does a suggested name by a third party have more value or relevance than the above? It doesn't!

"I find the "suggested" names data to be often capricious, incorrect, a laughing stock and something to be upset about. Personally, I cannot rely on the "suggested" names as a useful or reliable source of information."

I could not put it better if I tried.

A funny side note is I was doing some forestry work deep in Drury Inlet, where I came upon a lake. I named this lake on my working map "Stacey Lake", after my wife. When the info was eventually put in the Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP), it not only kept "Stacey Lake", but the creek draining said lake was named "Stacey Creek". Publications (such as "Backroad Mapbook") use these FSP's for their product. It is then used for other sources, such as Bivouac, Guidebook's etc.

I think quotations (like Fairley), is a good start. I also don't care if a peak has a "Longspur E4" name. If suggested names are to go ahead, there should be a large degree of caution and consultation involved. Finding fifteen new names when opening the Java map is disturbing to say the least.

There are drainages in the Big Silver Creek watershed (East Harrison) that were named by loggers (Butler/Hunger), these are used commonly today. Like I say, this is a complex issue.