Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2001

How do you spell DeSoto?

Some say city’s name misspelled

February 8, 2001

City Clerk Lana McPherson thinks DeSoto has a space problem.

She's not referring to the scarcity of parking downtown or a shortage of suitable ground for industrial development. McPherson's concern is for the space she learned to leave between the e and the S in DeSoto during her early school years.

McPherson remembers learning to write on three-lined ruled tablets. Young students were taught to properly spell DeSoto by leaving a gap as large as their little finger, she said.

The decision of whether to spell DeSoto with or without a gap
appears to be at the whim of the speller. City Clerk Lana McPherson
would like to remedy that, at least as far as city government is
concerned. The city council will discuss her suggestion that city
government return to the De Soto spelling.

The decision of whether to spell DeSoto with or without a gap appears to be at the whim of the speller. City Clerk Lana McPherson would like to remedy that, at least as far as city government is concerned. The city council will discuss her suggestion that city government return to the De Soto spelling.

"If you spelled it without a space, you got a red check mark," she said. "It was that way all the way through school. If you didn't leave a space, it was counted wrong."

Some time in the 1980s, the spelling changed, McPherson said.

"I haven't found anyone who knows why the space was taken out," she said. "Maybe the city got an order of stationery without the space, and they just stayed with it."

When she became city clerk three years ago, old-time residents asked her to "get the space back," McPherson said. She has enlisted Mayor Steve Prudden in the effort. The mayor has put the matter on the city council's Feb. 15 agenda.

Local historian Darrel Zimmerman said the city was named for the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto. Should the city use the preferred spelling of his name, it would omit the space.

McPherson counters with documentation that supports the spelling of DeSoto with a space. The city was spelled that way in ordinances dating from early 1900s. Most importantly, the incorporation papers the city filed with the state use the De Soto spelling.

"That is how we are officially listed with the secretary of state," she said.

The city is identified as DeSoto (no space) on a sign in front of the current City Hall and on directional signs on Kansas Highway 10. But McPherson pointed out older signs on the Post Office and the downtown bank correctly spell the city as De Soto.

The spelling on the new City Hall is DeSoto but Prudden said that would be changed.

Confusion over the proper spelling of DeSoto isn't limited to signs. The DeSoto Explorer omits the space, as does the Lawrence Journal-World. On the pages of the Kansas City Star, it is De Soto.

To make things more confusing, the correct spelling of the defunct automobile manufacturer is Desoto.

DeSoto Unified School District 232 doesn't use the space on official documents or correspondence. But a recent school board agenda spelled it both ways.

District public relations director Carol Farmer said she doesn't use the space because Pansy Penner, a long-time teacher and local newspaper columnist who died last year, told her that was the correct spelling. McPherson remembers Penner being a stickler for spelling DeSoto with a space.

Farmer said she didn't know if the district had an official document filed with the state similar to the city's incorporation papers that establishes its official name.

McPherson hopes the city council will decide to correct the mistake of the past 20 years. It is, she said, the ideal time to return to the proper spelling of the name.

"With the mayor not running for re-election and our moving to the new City Hall, we're going to have to change our letterhead anyway," she said.

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