Although there is no real reason I should know the meaning of this word from conversation, it does fit the central premise of this blog rather well. When I was traveling from Milwaukee to my cousin's house in Wisconsin this summer, we passed an exit for Tamarack Street or Drive along the highway. It was strange to see the name there, because it was actually a name from my childhood and adolescence. Our street in Dublin, California was a mere block away from Tamarack Drive. I crossed it constantly, and walked it every day for four years to go to high school. Yet to this day I have no idea what 'tamarack' means. And let's just say that high school is a long time ago now.
I am surprised that I had no interest in discovering a meaning, though I suppose in my defense, the names and meanings in housing tracts are often senseless. Less defensible is that when I saw this sign in Wisconsin I was struck by the common naming and resolved to post about it, yet summer has turned into fall and I've been too lazy to summon up even the idle curiosity that would give me an answer.
Dublin, though a tract development, was originally a tiny Irish community. There is, or was, an old Irish church--old by California standards at any rate--with an old Irish graveyard. I am guessing that 'tamarack' is an Irish word, though this may well be wishful thinking--the street it led out to was, after all, Amador, and not an Irish word at all. But you don't see many Spanish placenames in rural Wisconsin, so I'll stick to my theory. Although it could really be anything, I am going to guess it is some sort of shrub, and probably a tree. Any guesses before we plunge in? No? Well, here we go...
Uh, no, not Irish. The best I could find was, "possibly Algonquin". But yes, it is a tree. It's a larch, which again I have no idea of, but it is a conifer--a pine--and that at least I do understand. It turns out that the reason I would come across the name again in Wisconsin is that it is an Eastern sort of tree, whose range extends into the Lake States. So what was it doing, naming a street in California?... I wonder if the actual tree has made it as far west as it's names. We've no shortage of pines out here, so it would have a lot of competition.
The funny thing about Dublin is that, unlike a lot of American towns that I have lived in, it did not have that divider strip between the sidewalk and the street, which are typically planted by the city with trees of some uniformity. By rights there should have been tamaracks, shouldn't there?