Today's WHYGUY question comes to us via email from Clifton: "Why is Lake Tahoe named that?"

The name was not agreed upon by all, that’s for sure. In the 1800s, the naming of the lake was controversial and had many bickering. The original name was listed in 1844 as "Lake Bonpland" after a French botanist.

That didn't last. "Mountain lake" would soon follow. That didn't last.

Lake Tahoe popped up, but that's apparently a mispronunciation of the Washoe Indian word for big lake and pronounced "da ow." You can see the alleged mix up for "Tahoe."

So while the name Lake Tahoe was floating out there, California’s then-governor John Bigler and the California legislature decided to officially name it "Lake Bigler" in 1854. It became a thing to argue about the "Bigler" and "Tahoe" names.


Even author Mark Twain weighed in back in 1863 writing, "Bigler is the legitimate name of the Lake and it will be retained until some name less flat, insipid and spooney than 'Tahoe' is invented for it. ... People say that Tahoe means 'Silver Lake' — 'Limpid Water' — 'Falling Leaf.' Bosh! It means grasshopper soup."

I’ve never had grasshopper soup, but I’m sure that was Twain’s mic drop line. You know it's a serious beef when Mark Twain is peeved.

Through the end of the 1800s the Tahoe versus Bigler feud continued, until the California legislature reversed its decision on Lake Bigler and officially named it Lake Tahoe in 1945.

So the two-million-year-old lake has only been officially Lake Tahoe for 75 years.

Sorry, Mr. Twain.

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