The Japanese Bridge.

Back in the early days of LH we had a long thread based on the local pronunciation of New York’s Kosciuszko Bridge; I now present a delightful followup (by John Moy) from the Metropolitan Diary section of the NY Times:

Dear Diary:

The construction of a new Kosciuszko Bridge, the demolition of the old one and coverage of how to pronounce the bridge’s name is of particular interest to certain New Yorkers of Chinese heritage.

Whether it is pronounced “ko-SHCH-OO-SH-ko,” “Kos-kee-OOS-ko” or “Kos-kee-OSS-ko,” the name Kosciuszko, despite being Polish in origin, sounds Japanese to Cantonese-Americans.

Every driver in New York who speaks Cantonese and listens to the radio station WZRC-AM is used to hearing about traffic being backed up from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway “all the way to the Japanese Bridge.”

Ask a driver in New York who speaks Cantonese where the Kosciuszko Bridge is. They won’t know.

Perhaps the traffic reporters should consider calling it the Polish Bridge instead.

Thanks, Eric!

Comments

  1. The highest peak in Australia, Mt Kosciuszko, is pronounced kɔziˈɔskoʊ.

  2. Jonathan D says:

    There was a mention in the old thread that in more recent times, “Ka-shoosh-ko” has appeared in Australia. If I recall correctly, this new attention to the Polish pronunciation was prompted by the official change in spelling. When I learnt it, the mountain was Mt Kosciusko. I’m not convinced the Polish pronunciation is sticking, but it makes some sort of sense to think about the more “authentic” pronunciation when doing the same to the spelling.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    I’m not convinced the Polish pronunciation is sticking

    That’s not even what it is, it’s half-Italian! Italian for sci before a vowel is somewhere between [ɕ] and [ʃ]; but Polish for ści (the accent is predictable) before a vowel is [ɕtɕ].

  4. This came up on a recent This American Life—documenting the polyglot New York Chinese taxi dispatchers who have to know multiple improvised Chinese names for local thoroughfares.

  5. It just goes to show that a concept, language, and object’s cultural and linguistic origins are not always accurately interpreted by the general public. Consider Pennsylvania Dutch, which is really a dialect of German.

    At least Germany and the Netherlands share a common border. Mistaking Polish for Japanese is quite a stretch!

  6. The Japanese impression must be due to the final -ko (子), a staple of Japanese female first names popular from 1870s to 1970s. Notably, “momoko” (桃子; peach + ko) is a stereotypical Japanese-style female nickname for Hongkongese girls.

  7. January First-of-May says:

    Mistaking Polish for Japanese is quite a stretch!

    As, IIRC, I had already mentioned on LH previously, the inventor of Karatsuba multiplication (the first known fast multiplication method for large numbers) is commonly believed to be Japanese, even though his last name is actually of Ukrainian origin…

  8. Speaking of ethnically-tricky mathematician names, does anybody have a convincing source on how Dirichlet pronounced his name? And on what the most popular pronunication among English speakers is?

  9. I say deer-ih-CLAY, which is close enough to Wikipedia’s [diʀiˈkleː] for jazz. Do you have reason to think he would have said it otherwise?

  10. Well, shows what I know: I’ve always said [dirɪçlɛt], but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it said.

  11. From the other linked thread, about Toronto’s Bloor Street: “I never would have known to say “blohr.””

    I never would have known to say it any other way! LH, do ‘poor’ and ‘store’ not rhyme for you? I thought of this as universal in North America, at least outside the South where I don’t know what to expect.

    That said, the TTC announcer voice says it “bluer”, which always seemed like an affectation.

  12. January First-of-May says:

    Looks like the Russians are mostly correct with Дирихле, but the specific details are confusing.

    I’ve seen sources pushing for [diʀiˈkleː] (the current Wikipedia version), [diʁiˈçleː], [diriˈkleː], and “deer-uh-clay” (not sure how to convert that last one into IPA). None of them look particularly convincing, however.
    (And I like someone’s suggestion of “di as in dish, ri as in rich, cle as in cleptomania”.)

    No idea what the most popular version is, however.

    [EDIT: and for what it’s worth, my other favorite example of a mathematician whose ethnicity is hard to place from their last name is Sylow, who is actually not in any way Polish – he’s Norwegian.]

  13. LH, do ‘poor’ and ‘store’ not rhyme for you?

    Sort of. I usually say “pore,” but sometimes I verge on a spelling pronunciation. I attribute this to my mixed-up linguistic background (Ozark dad, Iowa Norsk mom, growing up all over the world, then Los Angeles, then the East Coast). But I would have said /blur/ for sure.

  14. Jonathan D says:

    In English-speaking mathematical circles, I only remember hearing a French-based version of Dirichlet. Sylow, on the other hand…

  15. David Marjanović says:

    I took for granted Dirichlet was French…

    Sylow must be one of those northeastern German names of distant Slavic origin, with y for [yː] and ow for [oː].

  16. /puɚ/ is actually the traditional pronunciation of poor, where /u/ varies between actual [u] and [ʊ]. The CURE lexical set was never large (moor, your, sure, gourd, fury) and has broken up in various ways in different accents. For myself, I have the traditional pronunciation in all but dour (MOUTH), and the adverb sure, which belongs to NURSE (whereas the adjective sure is CURE).

  17. I’ve told the story before of the rural West Virginia school choir I heard in the 60s, which sang the Emma Lazarus-derived piece “Give me your tired, your poor …” with /pur/ in spite of the fact that Lazarus rhymed it with “shore” and “door.” I supposed, and still do, that their choirmaster had acquired one of those odd Yankee-schoolmarm-derived Appalachian school pronunciations that have now, I think, all been ironed out.

  18. Trond Engen says:

    Talking of bridges called differently by immigrants. I’m reminded of Ankerbrua in Oslo, known by the first Pakistanis in Oslo around 1970 as “Bridge of the Horses”. It was a landmark and a first contact point for newcomers, who often had nothing arranged except a scheduled meeting on the bridge with a distant cousin who could fix a job or a place to stay.

    (Based solely on my memory of a recollection of the pioneer immigrants, read a decade or two ago and not easily regoogled.)

  19. The pronunciation of Dirichlet in French is complicated by the fact that final t became silent relatively late in French and is in fact preserved in many cases like Lot, Moët, Ouellet, and Payet, often in more peripheral varieties of French (like Canadian Ouellet and Reunionese Payet).

    The claim in Wikipedia that Dirichlet derives from de Richelette (from a town in modern-day Belgium) makes me wonder whether the t was originally meant to be pronounced in French.

  20. According to Herr Professor Doktor Internet, Dirichlet was pronounced [diʀiˈkleː] (“Dirikläh”) by D. himself, [diʀiˈʃleː] by some others (e.g. the 1906 Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon). French folks nowadays apparently pronounce it as either diriklé or diriklè.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Specifying äh rather indicates [ˈɛː] (well, [ˈæː], but that doesn’t make sense in French).

    either diriklé or diriklè

    The former is an innovation: the phonemic merger of open-mid and closed-mid vowels by redistribution as allophones is currently spreading.

  22. Mistaking Polish for Japanese is quite a stretch!

    It can be done. I think I have reported here how I used to believe that Douglas J. Futuyma’s surname was Japanese, whereas it’s actually Polish.

  23. January First-of-May says:

    I think I have reported here how I used to believe that Douglas J. Futuyma’s surname was Japanese, whereas it’s actually Polish.

    This makes particularly much sense if it is misread as Futuyama (cf. the authentic Japanese surname Fukuyama).

  24. I would have taken it to be Frisian.

  25. Specifying äh rather indicates [ˈɛː]

    FWIW, I remember my Swiss German/Southern German–speaking grandmother pronouncing rabäh ‘waaah!’ with an [eː] (from Wilhelm Busch’s Julchen. The line is Wirkungslos ist dieser Thee / Julchen macht: rabäh, rabäh!)

  26. The usual joke of math teachers is that they can count their mission accomplished if they make their students pronounce Euler’s name correctly.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    Wilhelm Busch’s Julchen. The line is Wirkungslos ist dieser Thee / Julchen macht: rabäh, rabäh!

    Fascinating. This only makes sense if Busch only knew rabäh from reading (…as do I…) and used it here for the meter without wondering if äh was meant to indicate a sound he wasn’t used to…

  28. January First-of-May says:

    The usual joke of math teachers is that they can count their mission accomplished if they make their students pronounce Euler’s name correctly.

    To be fair, he probably knew what he was doing when he spelled it in Russian as Эйлер*.
    (He was from Basel; I’ve found a discussion on Wikipedia that approximated the modern Basel dialect pronunciation as [ˈɛɪləʁ], though of course it could well have been something entirely different in the early 18th century.)

    A branch of Leonhard Euler’s descendants remained in Russia, and also spelled their name Эйлер; one of said descendants, one Дмитрий Павлович Эйлер (1883-1943), served on the famous cruiser Varyag during the Russo-Japanese War.

    *) or, apparently, occasionally Ейлер.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yeah, Basel is right at the southern rim of the unrounding area, and probably has been for centuries.

    or, apparently, occasionally Ейлер

    The controversy over whether the letter Э was needed at all ended only around the end of the 18th century, says the short description on Wikipedia.

  30. Elsewhere in the same poem:

    Oder will’s vielleicht in’s Bette,
    Wo auf warmer Lagerstätte
    Beide Eltern in der Näh?

    Nein, es macht: rabäh, rabäh!

  31. > the phonemic merger of open-mid and closed-mid vowels by redistribution as allophones is currently spreading.

    If I understand the situation correctly, /e/ and /ɛ/ have already merged in all but final open syllables, and even there they’ve merged in about half of France, but not Paris:

    https://francaisdenosregions.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/piquet.png?w=664

    So does newscaster French, or whatever version of French has the strongest influence on young speakers, have the distinction? If it does, as I imagine it does, it’s interesting that its influence is not strong enough to stop the spread. I guess it’s hard to reacquire distinctions once you’ve lost them.

  32. In Northern Germany long “e” and “ä” have merged into /e:/, so both of Busch’s quoted rhymes work. (Actually, that merger is characteristic for probably the majority of German regions; I think we have discussed this here before.)

  33. For my mother, born on the Hesse-Thuringia border in 1919, the merger was complete. And she enjoyed (and taught me to like) Weisswurst, too, and so much for the “equator”.

  34. In my experience, Thuringia is, hands down, the source of the worst sausages in central Europe.

  35. But a century ago?

    (Let’s see if this comment passes the “low quality filter”.)

  36. A discussion of new York City bridge names should not omit the Outerbridge Crossing. Many Staten Islanders and central New Jersey-ites assume the name derives from its being the outermost of the six crossings from New York City to New Jersey (four bridges, two tunnels). This is geographically but not etymologically correct. In fact, the name honors Port Authority Chairman Eugenius Outerbridge,

  37. Lars (the original one) says:

    Golden opportunity passed up! Outerbridge Bridge was clearly the proper name.

    Anundsjösjön.

  38. Trond Engen says:

    Bodø in Northern Norway can boast of both Vatnvatnet and Fjellfjellet.

  39. But a century ago?
    Well, what philologists would do is look at rhymes from that period and draw their conclusions from that…

  40. Hans: I think that philologists would have a hard time discovering the quality of sausages in Thuringia a century ago from rhymes.

  41. Oops – I thought we were still talking about /e:/ and /ε:/….
    But de gustibus etc. – I like Thuringian sausages.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    If I understand the situation correctly, /e/ and /ɛ/ have already merged in all but final open syllables, and even there they’ve merged in about half of France, but not Paris:

    I noticed plenty of people merging them in Paris. But it’s possible that they were all recent immigrants, and that I just didn’t notice those who made the distinction that I had still been taught.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    Here are maps on the very precisely transcribed vowel quality in different words with long ä all over the German-speaking area, followed by a discussion of spelling-pronunciations, analogy, frequency and so on, all in German. This is part of a project to document pronunciation variations within Standard German.

    If you want a historically informed rant on this (also in German, in a scholarly book), google for graphogenes Phonem.

  44. Outerbridge Bridge

    Here in Washington, DC, we have the Washington Convention Center, which is named not after the city, but after our first elected mayor, Walter E. Washington.

    Then there’s German chocolate cake, made with Baker’s chocolate.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    vowel quality in different words with long ä

    I should add that people were asked to pronounce sägen just after they’d been asked to pronounce Segen specifically to test whether, and how strongly, they’d try to differentiate them. That’s why the map for sägen has so many more open vowels than the one for später.

  46. Very interesting!

  47. David, re dialect map: How odd! Although there’s no map for a final äh (e.g. zäh), später and sägen are near the opposite ends of the merger, and in both, the maps show my grandmother’s dialect deep in [ɛː] territory. So why did she use [eː] in rabäh? Maybe just a one-off thing because of Busch’s rhyme with Thee? Maybe it was different a hundred years ago?

  48. David Marjanović says:

    Maybe just a one-off thing because of Busch’s rhyme with Thee?

    That’s entirely possible. Much stranger things have happened.

    (BTW, Tee since 1901. It’s strange that Dutch, with its otherwise much more phonemic spelling, keeps th in this word.)

    Maybe it was different a hundred years ago?

    That, too, is possible; the data come mostly from “the reading pronunciation of highschool students”, and [ɛː] is “graphogenic” anyway except in the west and southwest.

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