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SHIRLEY — Rivers, brooks, streams and other geographical points in the Nashoba Valley region often bear lovely-sounding, multi-syllable names that are difficult to spell. Nissitissit, Squannacook and Catacunemaug, for example, to cite a few among many.

Derived from Native American oral language designations for those places, written versions may differ from the spoken words. Like the spelling of Catacunemaug or Catacoonamaug Brook, which has been creatively configured and variously interpreted, with its letters reassembled or changed over time.

The U.S. Geological Survey map, circa 1988, for example, uses the latter spelling, which state agencies also use.

The Conservation Commission at its recent meeting voted to stick with the USGS version, noting that it’s the spelling state agencies have adopted. Acknowledging that local historians might have a different take on the issue, commissioners agreed that for paperwork purposes and consistency, they’ll stick with Catacoonamaug, at least for now.

Catacunemaug Road, however, is what it is, they agreed, street sign and all.

— M.E. Jones

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