Though our nation's gaze will turn ever so briefly toward Alabama and Mississippi today, about 1,300 miles away, in the small town of Mont Vernon, New Hampshire (that's not a typo, Wiseass Internet Commenter Who Loves Pointing Out Typos — it's Mont), another vote of equal momentousness is taking place. Because today, Mont Vernon will finally settle whether to change the name of the local Jew Pond to ... pretty much anything else that is not Jew Pond. As the AP reports:
Mont Vernon's approximately 2,400 residents will have a chance to vote Tuesday at a town meeting on whether to ask the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to officially change the Jew Pond moniker, which appears on a 1968 map but not on any town signs.
Town officials say Jew Pond, which is what most people call it, got its name in the 1920s. Town health officer Rich Masters recently took up the cause to change the name after it appeared in a news report about an algae bloom there.
You might wonder how a pond would get a name like Jew Pond. What kind of fish are swimming in there — gefilte fish!?! Eh?
[It]'s generally believed that the body of water became Jew Pond when two Jewish businessmen from Boston bought the [nearby] hotel .... "That was when Jews were openly discriminated against," Masters said, saying the Jew Pond name could not have been anything but pejorative.
Oh yeah, no, that's definitely a hard J.
Or is it? Zoe Fimbel, a member of the Mont Vernon Historical Society, subscribes to an alternate interpretation. A very, very unconvincing alternate interpretation.
She said it was more about long-time residents in the 1920s being annoyed by out-of-towners trying to turn the pond into something it was not.
"It's too bad it's gotten to be such an issue when it's never even referred to or portrayed in a negative way," she said. "It's more like, `It's the Jew's Pond. The new man in town."'
And yet, curiously, the lake is not known as Out of Towner Pond or New Man in Town Pond. And we're pretty sure if two Protestant dudes from Boston had bought it, it wouldn't be called Protestant Pond. No, it's pretty clear that the Jewish thing is the X-factor here. So why not just change it? Why would anyone care?
Mont Vernon also is a town proud of its history, the main reason locals argue to keep the pond's name. Just a quarter-mile from the pond is a familiar monument in all New England towns, honoring the town's veterans from as far back as the 47 who fought in the American Revolution.
A monument to the bravery of soldiers and a testament to the town's erstwhile anti-Semitism — we think one of these things might deserve more pride than the other.