What’s a Cortelyou? And Will the Van Wyck Get Me There?

You’d think there would only be so many ways to pronounce, or mispronounce, a name.

The expressway that connects the north and south poles of Queens, The Times reports today, is correctly pronounced neither “Van Wick” nor “Van Wike” — even though Mayor Robert A. Van Wyck himself, for whom the road is named, favored the latter pronunciation. Rather, according to an actual native of the Netherlands, Van Wyck is pronounced “Fon Weg.”

But it’s a big world out there.

“As an Afrikaans speaker, I say ‘fun vake’,” one Andrew MacPherson
noted on Twitter. And according to another Twitter message, from Dianne Gallagher, “Locals in Van Wyck, S.C. pronounce it ‘Van Wack’ (hometown of Olympic sprinter Shawn Crawford, Gold & Silver medalist ).”

(More locally, observed Henry Posner, a k a bandhphoto, “If you’ve driven on it the names you call it cannot be printed in the nytimes.”)

New York, being an international sort of town, is full of streets and other place names that are hard to pronounce — Houston, Vesey and Kenmare Streets being only three of them. What are some New York City place names that stump you? Meserole? Cortelyou? Thirty-third and Third?

And what pronunciation have you had to resort to? Tell us, and City Room’s crack research team will take a few of them and endeavor to find out the proper way to say them.

Heck, if we could do it with Eyjafyallajokull, we can do it with anything.

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