A what-a-gan?

I remember in grade school getting weekly spelling lists. Never a strong speller - and prior to the era of Siri and auto correct – this was the part of every week I could do without. I'd stumble over the spelling of words like vacuum (one c, two u’s) and opposite (always two p’s!), address and alligator. The homonyms reignrein and rain. And why did thought have an “ugh” right in the middle? I always got that one right because “ugh” was exactly how I felt.

And then there was this one week when I looked down the list and saw toboggan. One of those words most misspelled, but I knew backwards! Two O’s, one B, two G’s, one A.  (I'm pretty sure I got a gold star that week…nailed it.)

When you live in a family of toboggan makers, learning how to spell toboggan was an important milestone and I had this one figured out as soon as I could read. Not only did we use this word regularly around the house, our family was, and continues to be, a steward of this word.

We’ve encountered every alternative spelling of toboggan out there:

Tobogan

Toboggon

Tabagan

Taboggen

Tabaggan

According to the Oxford Essential Dictionary of Word Histories, the English word toboggan, comes from Canadian French tabaganne, which is a derivative from variations of the word in the Algonquian language family (a family of North American Indian languages). For example, from Micmac topaĝan meaning “sled”, Abenaki dabôgan, and Maleseet /thapaken/. In short, the origin of the word toboggan is from Native American words for "sled".

The indigenous roots make sense as the tradition of the toboggan came out of northern Canada as a means of transportation across the vast Canadian wilderness. Most of the original sleds were pulled by hand and made of animal skin or rough wood such as birch bark. With the Hudson Bay company came European lumber milling technology, and the toboggan we think of today took shape… Well, that's our best estimation of the origin, and we've talked a lot on the topic!

The noun, toboggan, has been in use since 1829 and describes a long flat-bottomed sled without runners, with the front end curled upwards, which may be pulled across snow or used to coast down hills.

And here we are today…

Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out a clever way to remember the correct spelling of toboggan. But don’t worry. With Google Analytics, we’ve got you covered. No matter how you spell it, we know how to help you find us. And if that doesn’t work, thank goodness we live in the age of Siri and auto correct.

Happy tobogganing!

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