The Land Both Elevated and Sunk
The High Banks near the Wetlands
where the Frogs went Plunk
By Mark R. Putnam
The place in the Thumb of Michigan once called by some
Podunk was where the bullfrogs went plunk!
Much has been said about the meaning of the name Podunk.
Michigan's Podunk has a place of much renown.
It was the place of the early Chippewa and
But, what was the meaning of the
On the East Coast, the local place called Podunk
was early on
In Old English, to bow or bulge was to pot or pout.
A corner of land in German was also called an "ecke".
Podunk would then seem to mean where the land bulged up or out.
The English word pot and pout mean to swell.
On the east coast the Nantick word "pootoemoo"
also meant to swell,
While in Chippewa and Ottawa a swelling was a "ombaog"
The root word means to pout.
In Latin a round swelling was called "bulla",,
which also means to bubble up or boil up, or well up.
These are the roots in which Podunk is set
Podunk means a neck or corner of
Podunk was where the land projected above the
It was the high hill that laid just above the home of
It was a neck of land,a projecting promontory,
In Chipppewa and Ottawa, "patakann means it
comes to a point.
Podunk was where there was a bulge in the land.
In Chippewa/Ottawa, bodaska means I am swollen.
The East Coast notion of Podunk is connected
with the Nantick word "pootsai", which means a corner.
Podunk was also said to mean an isolated,
small, out of the way place.
Nantick "ohke" means ground, earth, or
The name Podunk on the East Coast was likely
first pronounce "pootsai-ohnke",
And, meant a corner of land, originally.
Pootsai also meant a corner of the house or an
out of the way or resting place.
I likely meant where the house bulge out or the
In Nantick, the word for puffed up is "pookeu,
Which is similar to the English word pock or
Podunk in Connecticut was said to derive form "ptukeu-ohke",
And, was said to mean a neck or corner of land.
The root seems to mean a bulge, bend,
angle, nook, corner, point, or protuberance in the land.
Podunk in the Thumb of Michigan likely had a variant meaning, which was high
To bulge up or to be high in Chippewa is "ishpa".
A high hill is
called an "ishpadina".
Ishpeming in Michigan is another Chippewa word
that means the high place or heaven.
The basic root "pa"
means to rise, bulge, or to go up or over.
Podunk was the place
where the ground seemed to swell and rise above the wetland meadows.
Podunk was the land above the swamps, streams,
and the river.
It was where the ground welled up or arose.
Podunk in Michigan's Thumb was the home of many
a Native American.
On the fens, ridges, and uplands, they would
roam in search of elk, moose, and venison.
Podunk was the land of the Native town.
It was a land of much renown.
Podunk seems to have been the name of a region
and its main Indian town.
This 1783 map appears to show Podunk
as the Village of the Outoua or Ottawa
In the Thumb of Michigan, Podunk was a region of causeways and many a connecting
It was a place that Native People would cultivate and till.
It was the high banks that were surrounded by a
level land that was rich, wet, and dark.
Here the hills met with the Mattawan River
where one could disembark.
Podunk was the ridge land or
high hills land.
In Michigan's Thumb, it described the
high ridges at the center of the Thumb.
It was the Ottawa homeland.
Podunk was a place of
fields where potatoes, squash, beans, and corn grew
with surprising yields.
Podunk was the hill and cultivated nook.
It was the place of the knolls that held many an
out of the way resting place or hook.
It was the place
of many a wigwam that stood under a cork pine forest
that was often very calm.
Podunk was the land of the beaver, which the
Chippewa called "amik".
The beaver dammed the streams and would
dive into its pond with a tail flick.
Podunk was where the land was both elevated and sunk.
On the high ridges, the Native drum would tap
At the Indian fields were potatoes,
squash, beans, and Indian corn.
The pathways to Podunk were all very well worn.
At the river banks of the central Town of Podunk stretched fields
They grew down to the river's edge and swamp.
Podunk and the fields of corn were celebrated with much pomp.
Here, Podunk was "ishpadina" or the high
banks or hills.
Podunk was also the place of the Indian corn mills.