A Spelling Lesson From the Bay City Rollers


Champlain points out the river.


S-A   I-N-T   J-O-H   N!

S-A   I-N-T   J-O-H   N!

S-s-s Saint John New BrunsWICK!!! Saint John New BrunsWICK!!!

S-A   I-N-T   J-O-H   N!

S-A   I-N-T   J-O-H   N!

[Need clarification? Watch the original here. ]

Okay, here’s the scoop. When the great French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, landed here on a sunny June day in 1604, he named the river that flowed into the Bay of Fundy la rivière Saint-Jean, because it happened to be the feast day of Saint John the Baptist.

Sometime later, the English settlers here had other names for their spots on either side of the river, but finally in 1786 they decided on the collective name of Saint John, using the name of the river to represent both settlements. Saint John became the first incorporated city in North America.

Life went on. Sometimes people spelled it “Saint John”, and at other times “St. John”. Of course, being named after as popular a guy as Jesus’ first cousin and the patron saint of France, the New Brunswick town competed with Saint John, Quebec and St. John’s, Newfoundland for distinctiveness. In the early twentieth century, a movement was afoot to change this city’s name back to Parrtown, the earlier moniker for the community on the east side of the river.

I don’t know about you, but personally, if I were a west-sider, my nose would be out of joint at such a thought.

Possibly the city council and the newspaper saw the situation in a similar light.

In March of 1925, the Telegraph-Journal suggested that the road to distinction lay in consistently spelling the city’s name without abbreviation: “Saint John”. The newspaper further announced that it would itself do so, effective immediately. A mere six weeks later, the city council made it official. The river might be the “St. John”, but the city’s name would always be spelled out fully.

So there ya go.

"Three blocks straight ahead, you can't miss it"
Full statue, with E.g. and Sonny Boy, in Queen Square.

I will, in parentheses, add that in local publications it is acceptable to write “SJ”. But no “St. John”, please.

And don’t worry; it took numerous corrections on the part of E.g. before I got this fact drilled into my own head. I may be Canadian, but I’m definitely “from away”.

Thanks are due to this page for the facts behind the spelling of Saint John.

12 Responses to A Spelling Lesson From the Bay City Rollers

  1. Mutual friend Jane says:

    Hip, hip hooray!
    Some good Maritime speilling facts!
    And now I even know why!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Well isn’t that interesting. I’ll pass this along to my husband… He loves this sort of thing.

  3. Gina says:

    Baptists call St. John just plain “John”.

  4. I don’t confuse John, NB and John’s NFLD, but I didn’t know about the saint thing. Interesting.

  5. When I took a university introduction-to-music course in the mid 90s, the prof used the Bay City Rollers as an example of a here-today-forgotten-tomorrow band. How unkind. The 18-20 y/o crowd of students didn’t know who he was talking about.

  6. goodbear says:

    i’ve never been geographically closer to you than i am now, by the way.

    great post. your move is going to make some good material! i LOVED roller skating to s.a.t.u.r.d.a.y!

  7. lavenderbay says:

    Gotta love the internet, Jane, for finding out things like this. (Ummm… did you mean to spell “spelling” wrong? I wouldn’t put it past you. You always did have such a dry wit. )

    Meet you in Connecticut for a game of Balderdash, Elizabeth!

    That’s, interesting, Gina! I’m giggling, though, at the thought of getting a Christmas card from you with: “Turtle and E.g./123 Seaside Street/John, NB.”

    I didn’t know about the “Saint” thing either, Barefootheart. I think people here feel about it the way you would feel if visiting a foreign country, and saying you were from Ontario, and the other person automatically assuming you were from Toronto. A point of pride.
    Don’t feel too bad about those young people vis-a-vis the BCRs, btw; I can’t name any song Britney Spears sings, either. 😛

    Ah, Goodbear, that’s why the snow is finally melting here! Thanks for bringing some of the Southwestern sunshine with you.
    I had several hours in the new apartment today, supervising the move and waiting for the sofa delivery. There were people painting the walls and playing 70s hits on the radio, and I was singing along to every last tune and feeling decades younger. Skate on!

  8. Alyson says:

    I had no idea the Bay City Rollers were so political…and I can’t believe they were considered flash in the pans by your Uni Barefootheart…mention them in Australia and everyone knows you’re talking about the 70’s! Or tartan. If you’re a girl, that is.

  9. So, would Saint John, NB be pronounced “Sint” John or “Saynt” John?

    (And BTW, I love your snowshoes in the post below.)


  10. lavenderbay says:

    They really were cuties, weren’t they, Alyson? And I think Barefootheart’s prof was wrong to pick on them for another reason: they’re a bubblegum band,like the Archies or Hanson — fun and G-rated, a group one grows up with and grows out of. That’s different from being mediocre.

    I had to ask, Bobbie. E.g. sez to say “Saynt” for “Saint John”, and “Sint” for “St. John’s” . I was momentarily nonplussed yesterday, though, when the sofa arrived from Sears and the one fella said it had a problem with a lag. Then he showed me the loose leg.

  11. hello lavenderbay its dennis the vizsla dog hay i think it wood be more distinktiv if it wer speld saynt jon insted of just being pronownsd that way ha ha ok bye

  12. lavenderbay says:

    You’re brilliant, Dennis! If ever you decide to retire from the archaeology profession, maybe you should consider running for state governor.

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