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The Undertow: Eglinton vs. Eglington

Posted by Ian / February 7, 2007

20070207_eglintonsign.jpgAs the result of a North Toronto upbringing I've spent a lot of time around the Yonge & Eglinton area. (Yes, I've even been cozy enough to refer to it as Yonge & Eg). While I'm not in the neighbourhood as often as I used to be, the odd visit to North Toronto's downtown is still at least a monthly occasion. I've watched it change little by little over the years, including the Lululemon fashion invasion and the disappearance of some well-loved businesses (Toonie Sandwich Cafe and former-employer Ed's Record World, we hardly knew ye). Something that hasn't changed, though, is the difference in the way the main street of the neighbourhood is pronounced. While not quite as divisive as The Beach vs. The Beaches, the Eglinton vs. Eglington debate still exists, although few would guess that it goes back to the early 19th century.

The word "debate" might be a bit too generous a description for the relationship between the two pronunciations, especially since the street and subway signs, addresses, and official documents all spell the word without the second "g." Yet the "Eglington" pronunciation still finds its way into conversations all the time, and I remember hearing the subway stop announced that way before the automated system was installed. In fact, I'm still not one hundred percent sure that the recorded voice isn't saying it, too...

Ordinarily I wouldn't have thought that a mispronunciation deserved much interest, especially when they're so common in the Toronto - Queen's "Kway," anyone? - but I stumbled upon a chapter in "Lost Villages" by Ron Brown that (partially) explained the whole thing. Flipping through the section pertaining to North Toronto I noticed that the village of "Eglington," not Eglinton, was one of those now-swallowed villages the grew up around the city.

The village was named after the Earl of Eglinton in Ayrshire, Scotland, as a tribute to the soldiers that Ayshire provided for the War of 1812. A clerical error in the 1820s resulted in the word being recorded as "Eglington," though, and the misspelling crept its way into both municipal and business documents. It was only in 1880 that the mistake was found and the correct spelling was restored. I'm not sure if we can attribute today's mispronunciations to a nearly 200 year-old clerical error as much as to carelessness and habit, but it's interesting to see the Beach vs. Beaches debate isn't the first bit of nomenclature nitpicking Toronto has ever seen.

Discussion

12 Comments

jamie / February 7, 2007 at 10:50 am
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Some closed businesses can't decide on the spelling either, such as the recently-shuttered <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbcurio/364270889/in/set-72057594111617838/"; target="_blank">Tim Hortons east of Yonge.</a>
Michael / February 7, 2007 at 11:01 am
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Kinda like sandwich and sangwich.
Tanja / February 7, 2007 at 12:05 pm
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Hah... intersting to know!

I'm pretty picky about pronunciation and it drives me crazy how lazy people can be with it -- which leads to these kinds of problem and further deterioration of our spoken conversations.

I remember having a debate over the name when I worked for a press org that was in the CFL building up there. We ended up having to go out to the street to prove our point with the streetsigns, but then, on the hydro pole, nearby were driving school posters that spelled it with a g. oy!
Ian / February 7, 2007 at 01:29 pm
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Thanks for that picture, Jamie! Tim Hortons isn't exactly a paragon of perfect grammar themselves, either, since they dropped the apostrophe from "Horton's.";
Adam Sobolak / February 7, 2007 at 06:27 pm
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Don't forget the Black Uhuru reggae classic, "Youth Of Eglington"...
Steve M / February 7, 2007 at 07:28 pm
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As a kid it was always Eglington to my ear and I wouldn't be surprised to know that my relatives were mispronouncing it (I have to correct my Mom on Queen's Kway from time to time).

It wasn't until I was working at Yonge and Eglinton that I noticed the missing "G". For someone who takes a care in proper pronunciation (I am frequently mocked by my Toronto friends for enunciating the second "T" in Toronto) it came as a complete shock. I was sure it was a conspiracy - someone had removed all the damn gs overnight.



Andrew Jeanes / February 7, 2007 at 11:15 pm
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I would be very careful about trusting anything I read in a book by Ron Brown. He plays fast and loose with his research and often puts a premium on telling a good story over good historical scholarship.

One of the things that's always appealed to me about Toronto culture was the eccentric pronunciations of place and street names. When I moved to my current street, I pronounced it "Tichester" as it would be pronounced in Britain. After a few funny looks I learned that here it's pronounced "Tie-chester." And let us say nothing more about Ron-says-veils.
Dax / February 7, 2007 at 11:15 pm
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Lately i've been calling it 'Young & Eligible'.

Danielle / February 8, 2007 at 03:54 am
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Hah, Yonge and Eligible, I love the proliferation of that term!

WHEN did Toonie Sandwich place close? I worked until September of this year at Yonge and Eg, spending on average 40-50 hours a week between two retail jobs and that was my happy place!
Doug / March 1, 2007 at 01:09 pm
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Then there's "Balloil" Street... I could never bring myself to pronounce Balliol Street the way many locals did (and probably still do).
Drew / March 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm
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Re: Ron-says-veils.

Roncesvalles is named after a Spanish village, it isn't an English word. That said, I'm sure "Ron-see" or "Ron-cess-ville" is accurate.

I've never noticed a local with a veil.
sam eglington / November 24, 2013 at 05:15 am
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interesting that you found this in street sign pronunciation. my last name is eglington, of a small group in Australia of eglington. it is very difficult to assume where the origin is, i have herd stories that after the war of 1812 that the family was out lawed. and it seems that after moving to Australia the extra G was taken into the name, it is very hard to trace and existence of the family be for migrating to Australia.

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