“How did the Charles River get its name?”

Charles River at sunset in December. (Photo: Robert Bauer)

On an unexpected detour this weekend through South Natick, The Five-Year-Old (who’s reading now–YAY!) noticed a sign for the Charles River. After establishing that it was in fact the same Charles River that flows by the Museum of Science, she naturally wanted to know: “Mommyo, how did the Charles River get its name?”

He looks so shy and retiring. Can you believe this man would name anything after himself? (Portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, 1636. Image via Wikipedia)

Funny story. According to Wikipedia, when Captain John Smith mapped the New England area in 1614-15, he named the river the Massachusetts River after a local Native American tribe. But when he presented his map to King Charles I of England, the king made a few changes, as kings will do. One of those changes was to swap out the “barbarous name” Massachusetts for the more refined and regal Charles.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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