Many of us are pleased to live in the West Kootenay.
Yet it seems that some think we live in the West Kootenays (plural).
The West Kootenay was formed when the Kootenay district was split into East and West portions in 1888. (The dividing line is the crest of the Purcell Mountains, not Kootenay Lake as some travel writers would have it).
This is a fairly simple idea: there is a West Kootenay and an East Kootenay; taken together they are often referred to as the Kootenays. So far, so good.
After the division, reports and books began to refer to the two districts together as the East and West Kootenays. This practice seems to have lasted though the Second World War. But, in the 1950s, writers began to use the same cadence when referring to the western district alone. Some called the district the West Kootenays—a bit of linguistic ineptitude that implied that there were multiple West Kootenays.
At first the plural usage seems to have been confined deep inside obscure governmental documents written under contract by those from afar. But, by the 1970s the plural began to appear in books written by locals, and, gasp, even in book titles: Growth in the West Kootenays (1972), A History of Logging in the West Kootenays (1988).
We can track the plural use in books with a superb linguistic tool released in 2010: Google’s, Books Ngram Viewer. Type in a word or phrase and see its use across time and many millions of books. Choose the phrase (or phrases), the time period, the smoothing, and the language.
Below is a graph covering 1970 to 2000 and showing the appearance in books of West Kootenay with and without the s. A striking feature of the graph is the ascent of the plural in the later portion of the twentieth century. In books, it now almost rivals the singular.
Sigh….Incidence of West Kootenay and West Kootenays in books (a smoothing of 2 was used)