Spelling of 'St. John river' sparks national debate
Wednesday, May 2, 2018, 4:40 PM - New Brunswick is in the midst of historic floods, with the potential for more rain on the way.
Rising water in the St. John river has forced evacuations and closed numerous businesses. The Weather Network has been covering the flood situation in-depth since last week.
It wasn't long after our coverage began that comments started coming in from our audience.
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The first one came from a gentleman named Mark on April 20.
"It is Saint John not St. John," he said, referring to our spelling of the St. John river.
"St. John is in [Newfoundland]. Saint John is in [New Brunswick] which is what you're referring to."
Mark isn't completely wrong.
There is a city called St. John's in Newfoundland, and a city called Saint John in New Brunswick.
But what's the correct spelling of the river in New Brunswick?
We've been referring to it as the "St. John" river here at The Weather Network.
It turns out the debate has been raging on Facebook, after the Government of New Brunswick posted a flood update. So we visited an official government website, and that only confused us more.
The image below, screengrabbed off the Government of New Brunswick's website on May 2, 2018, features the name of the river, spelled in two different ways:
THIS ISN'T A NEW DEBATE
The National Post tried to get to the bottom of the debate in 2017 and turned up numerous official government documents featuring both spellings.
"It’s just one of those things over the years that’s changed back and forth,” historian Greg Marquis at the University of New Brunswick told the publication, adding he thinks it can go “either way.”
He also added locals would "not have a uniform way of spelling it."
The name of the river is an English translation of Samuel de Champlain's French christening of the river in 1604, on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. To make things even more confusing, the City of Saint John, NB was referred to as St. John until the mid-20th century.
While Natural Resources Canada says it's the "Saint John" river, there are numerous official government communications that refer to the river as "St. John", as we pointed out above.
CANADIAN PRESS MAKES IT OFFICIAL (WE THINK)
On July 1, the Canadian Press, which publishes a style guide, changed the official spelling of the river to "Saint John" in its handbook.
CP’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Meurice, told the National Post the change was made after hearing from locals who lobbied for the change.
That said, the "St. John" spelling continues to make an appearance, in the media and on government correspondence.
The debate rages on.
We asked our Twitter users to weigh in. See the results here: