A while back, a reader wrote in to ask the origin of the name “Idaho.” In my answer, I noted that “Idaho” comes from “Idahi,” which is what the Kiowa-Apache tribe called their Comanche neighbors, and that, curiously enough, “Idaho” was first proposed as a name for what is now the state of Colorado. On the other hand, for some reason, folks originally wanted to call what is now Idaho “Montana.” There seemed to be something fishy about the whole “Idaho” business, and I suggested in my column that the State of Idaho might, in fact, be a figment of a lazy mapmaker’s imagination. According to the following letter, I am not alone in this opinion, and I think one of those nifty Congressional investigations is definitely called for to investigate this “Idaho” hoax.
Hello, Evan: I was looking through your previous columns, and came across one you wrote about the origin of the word “Idaho. In it you suggest that the state of Idaho does not actually exist. This reminded me of a professor, Dr. Hommon, who taught (and perhaps still teaches) Western Civilization at Central Connecticut University. On the first day of class, he would tell us that Idaho does not exist. To prove his point, he would then ask if anyone in the class was from Idaho. Nobody ever raised a hand. Dr. Hommon insisted that all of those “Idaho potatoes” were actually from Maine, and truckloads of potatoes were driven from Maine out to somewhere in the Midwest, where people would paint “Idaho” on them, then turn the trucks around and drive them back east.
Now that I’ve moved to Colorado, I find it harder to convince people that Idaho isn’t real. I’ve even seen license plates that say “Scenic Idaho – Famous Potatoes.” Now if that slogan doesn’t convince you the whole thing is a hoax, nothing will! — Jen Philion, Boulder, CO.