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Answer Man: Is La Crosse, Wis., named for a game or a crucifix?

May 24, 2019

Hey Answer Man,

My son and daughter recently started playing the game of lacrosse. I know it’s a game the Native Americans played. Is that where the name of La Crosse, Wis., came from? Or is the city named for a holy cross?

— Lacrosse mom

Well, Lacrosse Mom, as you know, I have an advanced degree in place names. Just don’t ask me how Embarrass, Minn., got its name or I’ll turn a bright shade of red.

Anyhow, when it comes to La Crosse, Wis., you’re right on both counts — game and cross. The city is named after the Native American game, which in turn was so named because the sticks used in the game when seen by the first white explorers appeared to resemble the cross or crozier carried by Catholic bishops.

By the way, take a little drive over to La Crosse and as you enter the city, there’s a large sculpture of two Native Americans playing lacrosse (which is spelled slightly differently than the city). Nice touch.

Lacrosse is a great game, and I hope your kids are enjoying it. Answer Man Junior played a few years ago, but he kept scoring goals in his own net, so we switched him over to badminton. Don’t ask.

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