Scotchman (singular) Peak is in the Scotchman Peaks (plural)

Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010 by »

Grammatically speaking, “Scotchmans” is not OK. Except sometimes.

I use this paraphrase of a verse from the song, A, Your Adorable, (“Alphabetically speaking, you’re OK.”) to make a point. And the disclaimer to make another. Funny how words are sometimes.

First of all, the name of the mountain is Scotchman Peak, not “Scotchmans” or “Scotchman’s.” The name of the peak is singular, as the mountain is; neither plural (there is only one Scotchman Peak, although there is a peak called Scotchman Two) nor possessive (A Scotchman doesn’t own the peak)

OK, I’m being a nitpicky, but just so we’re all on the same page in this movement — which is what this is — to protect the peaks near and including Scotchman Peak, I would like us to get the name the same. I can’t say “correct,” because the word “Scotchman” isn’t even the preferred designator of someone from Scotland. Scots think of themselves as Scots or as a Scotsman or, perhaps, a Scotswoman.

One thing we know about the namesake mountain of the proposed Scotchman (look, Ma: no “s!”) Peaks Wilderness is that it wasn’t named by a Scot, or it would be Scotsman Peak.

From this angle (looking at Scotchman directly across the top of the Elinor Crag), it's hard to see the Scot in Scotchman.

From this angle (looking at Scotchman directly across the top of the Elinor Crag), it's hard to see the Scot in Scotchman. (Jim Mellen photo)

It was named by someone with a sense of imagination and whimsy. In my memory, it was my grandmother Mariam Clayton (not Miriam, by the way)  who showed me the Scot in Scotchman Peak, pointing northwest from her yard toward the rugged eastern profile of a mountain scratching the skyline some five miles away. Following her lead, I was able to imagine the profile of a craggy-faced man laying on his back (perhaps in state?) with a ruffle at his neck like an old-fashioned Scot might wear; the top of his head pointed northeast away from Clark Fork.

Part of the confusion might be that we are Friends of Scotchman Peaks (plural) Wilderness. When this beautiful place was inventoried in the RARE II studies of the 1970s, it was designated Scotchman Peaks, for there are surely more than one peak in the 88,000 acres we are working to protect. Star. Spar. Savage. Sawtooth. Clayton. Mikes. Billiard Table. Blacktop. Ross Point. No Name. The Crags. Scotchman Two. Davis Point. I’m sure I’m missing some. Oh, and Scotchman. Singular.

Now for the disclaimer. We have blithely complicated matters by calling the area that includes these mountains (and the valleys and canyons between) “The Scotchmans,” plural, so “Scotchmans” can be proper after all. There are precedents for this — in fact dozens. The Rocky Mountains in toto become the Rockies, the Ural Mountains are the Urals, the Appalachian Mountains are the Appalachians and so on. Cascades, Alleghenies, Catskills, Ozarks, Caucuses, Himalayas, Scotchmans.

The Scotchmans are actually part of the Cabinets, specifically, the Western Cabinets, which are that part of the Cabinet Mountain Range (stretching from the Mission Valley of Montana to the Purcell Trench of Idaho between the Kootenai River on the north and the Clark Fork on the south) west of Bull River and Lake Creek. The proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness makes up the southeastern corner of the Western Cabinets, bounded roughly by Bull River in Montana on the east, Lightning Creek in Idaho on the west, the Clark Fork River on the south and Rattle Creek and Keeler Creek on the north.

I suppose, really, that the mountain — being made of stone and all — doesn’t care what we call it. Humans are the namers of things, and we do this so we can keep track of these things, to “own” them in a sense, the sense that we can file a thing away in our heads somehow symbolically differentiated, which gives us something to sort on when some other human asks what that thing is.

So, when someone asks you what that thing is, that gorgeous, 7,009-foot chunk of Precambrian stone just northeast of Clark Fork, the one that from the east looks somewhat like a craggy-faced man lying on his back and wearing a ruffled shirt, please tell them it is Scotchman Peak, in the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, which is in the Western Cabinet Mountains, which are a far-western extension of the Rockies.

And then invite them to become a Friend and join our movement. For if there is one thing that I wish this place be always called — Scotchman, Scotchmans or Scotsman — it would be “wilderness.”

— Sandy Compton

About The Author:

Sandy Compton is the program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. He grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still.

He is a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at bluecreekpress.com.

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