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The Undertow: Eglinton vs. Eglington

As 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.


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