WHAT'S IN A NAME
As a school boy, I learned the story of Roger Williams coming to Rhode
Island. It is nicely captured on a local RI website: www.quahog.org. They
note that there is a small monument at the site where Roger Williams
stepped ashore in 1636.
"Williams and company had been forced to leave their original settlement
at Rumford, on the east side of the Seekonk River, after being notified
that the land already belonged to Plymouth Colony. .....Williams was a
wanted man in the powerful Massachusetts Bay Colony (and) .
.....Massachusetts's reach extended well into Plymouth. Williams had no
choice but to leave immediately. So Williams and his friends packed
themselves and all they could carry into a single canoe and took off,
regretfully leaving their newly planted fields behind.
When they arrived on the west side of the river, they had the good fortune
to be met at Slate Rock by a number of friendly Narragansett Indians, one
of whom greeted them in a mixture of old English and Narragansett with the
phrase `What cheer, netop?' essentially, "What's up, bud?" ..... Williams
... explained his predicament and asked the Indians if they knew of a
place where he and his company could settle.
The Indians directed the group to continue down the river, around the
point to the west, and up another small river to a cove. There, they were
told, they would find a suitable spot to live. Williams gratefully took
the advice. In the fullness of time, the little settlement he established
by the cove became the city of Providence."
Over the years, several vignettes about Roger Williams occasionally recur
to me. When this one has come to mind, I have whimsically addressed
friends with "what cheer, netop ?" There have been several businesses
which used the phrase, as did "What Cheer Laundry," and others.
At work, I recently used the phrase in an in-house e-mail, and later it
occurred to me to "google" it, to see if there is anything out there that
could explain it to those who might be unfamiliar with the phrase. There
is. In scanning them, I was particularly gratified when I noticed that one
of them translates it as "Hi neighbor." It liked it, even if it is not
totally literally correct. (Translations are not an exact science if you
want to capture and convey the range of meanings, subtleties, allusions,
etc. from one language and time to another. I recall that in some part of
the Odyssey, the Greeks were wandering, lost in the desert. As the lead
men crested yet another sand dune, they excitedly began to yell "the sea
!, the sea !" Now, the exact literal translation is "a large body of salt
water ! A large body of salt water !" Lesson: Exact literal translation is
not always the touchstone of communication).
"Hi, neighbor !" I liked it. And then it struck me: for many years, when
listening to Red Sox games in those hot summers long ago, and on many
other occasions, we really had more of a truly Rhode Island beer than I
realized. There was a lot more awareness of, and "tribute" to, our history
than I knew when Warren Walden, Curt Gowdy, Ned Martin, Ken Coleman and
others said "Hi Neighbor, have a 'Gansett !"
At Sid's Scenic Gardens, & elsewhere, I have seen & admired the Buck rose
`Hi Neighbor.' I looked it up, and was a little disappointed when it
appeared that he came to the name independently of this episode in our
It's quite nice & healthy, big, and a strong, and a clear/translucent
rose-red. Somehow, it struck me as a "happy" rose ! But, other roses
tugged harder at my sleeve, & I never quite bought one. There are a lot of
"studs" in its lineage, including Queen Elizabeth, Charlotte Armstrong,
Crimson Glory, Floradora, Peace, Prairie Princess, Eva, Pinocchio, Golden
Rapture and R. roxburghii.
I will now be planting `Hi Neighbor' this year, in mindful appreciation.
Quahog.org reports that on his monument in Slate Rock Park it is engraved.
"An exile for his devotion to freedom of conscience, and having a sense of
God's merciful providence unto me in my distress called the place