Brooklyn Actually Was Originally Pronounced ‘Brokelyn’

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Really, you thought all this would be easy to pronounce? Photo: iStockphoto

This week Jenny 8. Lee and the City Room gang met with Dutch ambassador Renée Jones-Bos and consulate general Hugo Gajus Scheltema to talk about the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up our river. (The pair was promoting NY400 Week, a series of celebrations coming up to mark the quadracentennial.) Jenny and her Times friends were out to find out how to pronounce the Dutch words that are the root of many names of locations and neighborhoods here in the city:

City Room started with an easy one: Harlem, which is named after Haarlem, a municipality and a city in the northern part of the Netherlands. “Haahr-lem,” Ms. Jones-Bos said. “You just make the A longer.” She nodded in approval at our attempts. What about Brooklyn, named after the Dutch town of Breuckelen, now spelled as Breukelen, between Amsterdam and Utrecht ... “Bro-ke-lyn,” she said with a puckered lilt we found difficult to mimic. “It has an extra syllable.” ... Coney Island, which came from the Dutch Conyne Eylandt? She brightened up at the word “conyne.” “It’s ‘rabbit,’ ” she said. There were a lot of rabbits on the island when the Dutch arrived, she said. But the pronunciation is where things got hairy. It sounded like Ms. Jones-Bos said “Ko-nay-nen” and then a clipped version of “island.” And what about Flushing? .. “Ve-le-is-sing-nen.”


You know what this sounds like? A really fun game to play when you're stoned. Aha! Amsterdam! It all makes sense now.

On that note, we're heading out for the weekend. We'll be back blogging on Tuesday. Happy Labor Day!

Going Dutch, and Saying It Right [City Room/NYT]