La Baie des Ha! Ha! is one of Quebec’s most fascinating destinations, but its enigmatic name often raises questions. Where does this singular name come from, and what does it really mean? In this article, we delve into the history of Baie des Ha! Ha! to discover the origins of this enigmatic name.
First of all, it’s important to note that the bay’s name has gone through several spellings over the years, such as “Baie des Ha! Ha!”, “Ha Ha Bay”, “Ha Ha Bay”, “Baie des Hahas”, or “Baie des Ha! Ha!.” This variety of spellings has fuelled much speculation about the origin of the name.
In 1947, abbé and historian Victor Tremblay examined this subject in his study entitled “La question de la Baie des Ha! Ha! He identified two main theories concerning the origin of the name.
The first theory suggests that the name comes from a cry of surprise (“Ha! Ha!”) uttered by the French who, thinking they were sailing the Saguenay River, were astonished to find themselves in a large bay. Although this explanation comes from Joseph Bouchette, its origin remains a mystery. It has, however, been adopted by many people over the years. This theory is reminiscent of what Jules Verne wrote in his novel “Famille Sans-Nom” in 1888: “This marvellous bay of Ha-Ha! – an onomatopoeic appellation bestowed upon it by the admiration of tourists.”
The second theory focuses on the meaning of the word “Ha Ha”. According to various ancient dictionaries, a “haha” refers to an opening in a wall to widen the field of vision, or a ditch, or even an abrupt obstacle on a path. For sailors, this means that Baie des Ha! Ha! is a dead end. This theory is supported by the fact that explorer Edward Harrison, in 1786, is said to have used the expression “à la turne de la Ha, Ha.”
Victor Tremblay concludes that the spelling (Ha! Ha! or Ha Ha) depends on how the name is to be interpreted. In his opinion, the geographical meaning of the word “Ha Ha” is the most relevant, due to the configuration of the bay.
To gain a fuller perspective on the issue, it’s essential to look at First Nations perspectives as well. Although the term “Ha Ha” was not part of the Huron language, the Innu (sometimes called Montagnais) used the terms “Heskauauashau” or “Ueskauauashau” to describe a bay, with “ua” or “ah” repeating in the word. Our ancestors may have simplified the term to “Ha! Ha!”.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that the name “Baie des Ha! Ha!” was officially adopted on December 5, 1968 by the Commission de toponymie du Québec, putting an end to decades of debate over its spelling.
All in all, Baie des Ha! Ha! is a fascinating place with an equally intriguing name. Whether you prefer the theory of the early explorers’ cry of surprise or that of the geographical impasse, one thing’s for sure: this unique name arouses curiosity and makes this destination even more memorable. So why not plan a visit to Baie des Ha! Ha! to discover all the mysteries for yourself?
Source: Musée du Fjord