In the speak-easy days before spell check, heck I'll go one better, before Mr. Webster's dictionary, spelling was more an art form than a science.
Case in point: the Native American Catawba tribe lived in the Southeast along the border of what is today North and South Carolina. Beautiful country, I've been there.
The Catawba were primarily an agricultural people that were friendly towards early European colonists but constantly at war with other Indian tribes. (Big mistake! If the tribes had worked together and driven us out, we'd all still be living on the moors.)
Today, roughly 2,600 Catawba still remain, mostly in the Palmetto State. The group has a tribal totem: a tree with showy white flowers. The tree bore their tribes’ name: catawba but because of a spelling error, the describing botanist—a man named Scopoli—recorded the name as “catalpa,” and that’s the moniker we use today.
Catalpa or catawba, misspelled or not, it’s still a beautiful tree when it’s in full bloom as it is now. With large heart shaped leaves, it's a fine example of southern treedom, which really isn't a word but in the spirit of freestyle spelling, I'll use it anyway.
- Photo taken along Baskins Creek in Gatlinburg