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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

References of the Jersey Devil before 1735?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1872points) September 2nd, 2018

A while back I asked a question here about how old the Jersey Devil legend was, because I was trying to rediscover a reference online that said that the Lenni Lenape called the Pine Barrens “the place of the dragon” – and this was the before the traditional date of the urban legend of 1735.

Somebody helped me by pointing out to the wiki article on the Pine Barrens – which mentioned “Popuessing” as the word that the Lenni Lenape used, and in addition, “Drake Kill” by the early Swedish explorers, which translates to “dragon river (or channel, stream, etc)”.

I want to do some research again on the Jersey Devil and so I revisited the wiki page to dig into the reference. However, there’s no mention of “Popuessing” on there anymore. It’s been edited out – and the “Drake Kill” comment too.

Even odder still, when I asked this question on Fluther several years ago, the response of the person who led me to the reference got moderated for spam?? = – so I can’t be 100% sure that it was the Pine Barrens wiki article – although I’m pretty sure it was.

I really want to know where this thing about “Popuessing” and “Drake Kill” came from, but it seems to be really obscure. The only helpful explanation I can find is from another forum a while ago where someone said that the Lenni Lenape language can be difficult to translate, so “Popuessing” is most likely erroneous. But I can’t find any hard evidence or sources. If you Google “Popuessing”, you can find many articles and other wikis mentioning the supposed translation – and “Drake Kill” too – but no references. Where did this come from??

I did a Google Book search and so far the oldest book I can find that mentions “Popuessing” and “Drake Kill” in reference to the Pine Barrens is from 2001. So this supposed translation goes waaaay back. But dammit – NOBODY SOURCES THESE TRANSLATIONS!

On a final note, I did find THIS, which is really interesting:

It’s spelled virtually like Popuessing except with a “q” instead of a second “p”. And it’s a Lenni Lenape word meaning “place of the mice”. Sooo. Someone probably messed up translations a long time ago?

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5 Answers

janbb's avatar

This article is quite a good discussion of the ambiguity of the etymology of both names. I ususpect, although I don’t know the author, that that might be as close as you get. There certainly are several books out on the Jersey devil. If you go to a library that has a good collection of Jerseyana, you can probably scan through several and pick the explanations that you like best.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

@janbb Oh this is great. Thank you!

Yeaaaah the libraries where I live really suck. I live in a relatively rural area and the libraries are really scant on interesting reads. But I’ll check them anyway.

janbb's avatar

Do you live in NJ? You can try an academic library like Rutgers.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

@janbb I do. I graduated from college a long time ago and the unfortunate thing is that they disregard alumni a lot. I’d have to sneak around one day into the library to see if I can find something. I didn’t think about that.

janbb's avatar

They should let you research in the library even if you don’t have borrowing privileges. Or try your county community college which also should let county residents have some access.

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