Commentary – From Cadogan to Czar

Joe McWilliams

This week’s regional commentary is an updated version of a piece I started quite some time ago. I thought it was going to be a gossipy bit for Page 9, but it got too long for that so I set it aside.

I’ve got all sorts of small bits and pieces like that, gathering dust in my computer files. I figure if I’m ever going to make use of them, a short week following a long weekend is the time to do it!

So . . . from the ‘not very important’ department comes the following item about Alberta place names. I’ve always had an impression there are a lot more towns beginning with the letter ‘C’ in this province than in other parts of Canada and the world.

But is it true? I’ve never bothered to look into it, having a good enough reason not to. Namely – who cares?

But recently I was looking at the website, which claims to deliver (but doesn’t always) daily gasoline prices at the pump from every community in the province – or at least every one with a gas station. There’s a handy list of Alberta towns and cities there, arranged in three columns.

Aha! Let’s see how many of them actually begin with ‘C’ and see if the impression is correct!

Chances are, I thought, some other letter will be more common.

As it turns out, ‘C’ is the winner. There are 67 towns, hamlets and cities in this province, beginning with the third letter in the alphabet. It starts with tiny Cadogan (near Provost) and ends with Czar. The book ‘The Story Behind Alberta Names’ says it’s not clear why Czar was chosen as the name – the area was settled by British immigrants.

In second place is the letter ‘B,’ with 63 Alberta place names to its credit. They run alphabetically from Balzac to Byemoor, with five names in between that include the word ‘beaver.’

The third most common is the letter ‘S,’ at 54 (57 in the place names book).

OK, having established the ‘C’ as king of Alberta place names, let’s find out if it is really is unusual. What letter leads the parade in our neighbouring provinces? Let’s have a look at the gasbuddy list for B.C. and Saskatchewan. (How hard can it be?)

The letter ‘C’ has a strong showing in both cases, but is not the leader. It’s the second most common in B.C. (43) and in third place in Saskatchewan at 65 names. The letter ‘M’ leads the way there with 68 names, running from Macdowall to Muskoday. Sixty-six Saskatchewan place names begin with the letter ‘S.’

In B.C., ‘S’ has the edge on the rest of the alphabet, with 48 communities starting with that letter. Saanich, of course, is first on the ‘S’ list. The letter ‘C,’ as noted, is in second place in Canada’s westernmost province.

‘M’ and ‘P’ are in a tie for third, showing up 36 times apiece.

How about Ontario? There, the ‘C’ trails ‘S’ (126 – 120) as the letter most towns and cities begin with. The ‘S’ names in Ontario start with Sachigo (where’s that?). Sydenham ends the ‘S’ list, beating out Swastika (really!) for that honour.

There you go! No need to wonder what your local newspaper reporter does on a slow news day or week. We dream up stories about things that aren’t very important, just in case we need to fill a space one day and there’s no actual news serve the purpose.

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