Spell Me A River

Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg lake, assignment america 5.15.09 CBS

More than four times as long as the Mississippi, the longest body of water in America is a lake located near Webster, Mass. The longest, that, is, if you measure it not in miles, but in letters.

What lake? As CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports for this "Assignment America," it's extremely hard to say.

Susan Freiswick is president of the local chamber of commerce. It's her job to promote businesses on the lake. And yet, even she can't say what lake.

She makes two attempts at pronouncing it before giving up. "I missed the last part," she says. "Obviously I didn't practice it enough."

In Susan's defense, for most people, mastering the name of this place is a life-long pursuit. It typically begins in the third grade. Kids learn the Nipmunk Indian derivation of the name basically means, "fishing place at the boundary." They learn it has 15 g's alone. They learn it's longer than any other place name in the country, and wider than their gym.

And they start to learn how to say it:

"Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg!" they say in unison.

Got that? Hartman didn't either. Which brings us to lake association president and expert lake name say-er Dick Cazeault. Supposedly he knows the right pronunciation.

He rattled off a pretty convincing rendition.

Fact is, most people go to great lengths to avoid saying the name. Instead, they like to call it Webster Lake, after the town, or simply "the lake." Anything but having to say the whole name.

Unfortunately, someone still has to know how to spell it.

Carla Manzi runs the gift shop here. It's her job to cram the 45-letter name onto shirts and hats. So of course she noticed right away when it was spelled wrong on the accompanying sign.

She says she spoke up, but, "Apparently it fell on deaf ears."

"Who's going to know other than us?" Dick asks.

For six years, that was the thinking. Until one extremely observant tourist from Arizona notified the local paper. The scam was up and the sign was changed. Question now is - do they know their police cars are wrong too?
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