Two Pronunciation Puzzles.

1) I happened on a mention of Wanaque, New Jersey, and of course wanted to know how to pronounce it. The Wikipedia article said “(/ˈwɑːnəˌkjuː/ or /wəˈnɒki/)”; I thought “that can’t be right,” but it turns out both are correct. From the references:

19. Hanley, Robert. “Full and Not at All: The Difference Between 2 New Jersey Reservoirs”, The New York Times, March 5, 2002. Accessed March 10, 2011. “The primary reason is that the Wanaque (pronounced WAHN-a-cue or wa-NOCK-ee) is now supplemented by a new reservoir and pumping stations built after the 1980’s drought. Yet despite those projects, trouble is looming again.”
20. Gansberg, Martin. “For Wanaque, Growth Is a Problem”, The New York Times, May 27, 1973. Accessed June 26, 2017. “WANAQUE-The first thing that one discovers on entering this Passaic County community is that the 9,500 residents cannot agree on the pronunciation of the name of their hometown. Longtime residents use the old Indian WA-NAH-KEY when they refer to the borough, while new homeowners call it WA-NAH-CUE.”

2) From “Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson on How They Created ‘Phantom Thread’” in today’s NY Times: “For Alma, Mr. Anderson sought a European unknown and found Ms. Krieps (pronounced krehps), 34, whom he’d seen in the German black comedy ‘The Chambermaid’ (2014).” Once again, I thought “that can’t be right,” but (chastened by my Wanaque experience) I withheld judgment. Just because as far as I know Krieps would be /krips/ (“kreeps”) in both French and German doesn’t mean this particular woman doesn’t pronounce her name /kreps/. But I’m still leaning towards the Times having screwed up (especially since elsewhere in the article, what appears online as “In previous films, including ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ and ‘The Master’” shows up on the printed page as “In previous films, including ‘Punch-Drunk Love’needs this hyphen and ‘The Master’”). Anybody know?


  1. Noah Kurland says

    Vicky Krieps pronounces her name “kreeps”. ( Another Luxembourger, Bob Krieps, pronounces his name “kripps”. (

  2. Marja Erwin says

    And how many people call it Wanak? Or Wanakwe? Which were my first two reactions.

  3. Vicky Krieps pronounces her name “kreeps”.

    Just as I suspected — many thanks! (And why is the Times so sloppy about these things?)

  4. I haven’t (thank Ghu) had to drink from the Wanaque reservoir since 1979, when I moved to NYC. But from 1958 until then, I never heard anyone say anything but Wanna-key, which is neither of the above. I never met anyone from the town either, though.

  5. When I was a boy, the tiny, rural unincorporated town of Olney, Maryland was pronounced OLL-a-ney by the people who lived there. Three syllables. First syllable like Ollie. Now it’s a bedroom community, its population has exploded, and it’s universally pronounced as written: OL-ney. I would think there’s a tendency for newcomers to adopt an eye-pronunciation.

  6. Not sure about this particular name. The spelling ie in Lëtzebuergesch is normally supposed to stand for the dipthong /iə/. But if the surname uses a Germanised spelling of the Ltz. word Kriibs ‘crayfish’, then the pronunciation should be /kriːps/.

    Happy New Year, everyone! I’m already in the year 2018.

  7. Also, Victoria Kreips may say Creeps but her American agent may have decided that Kreps is preferable for an actress with ambitions for stardom in the English-speaking world.

  8. Wanaque (also written Winockie, Wynoky, Whynockie [vel sim.] in the past) is thought to come from the Lenape word for ‘sassafras’, winakw, pronounced thus.

  9. Cf. Weyanoke, VA, also spelled Weanoc or Wyanoke (“perhaps from a word for ‘sassafras’; cf. Delaware <winak>”); name also found in LA and WV (Bright).

    Delaware pilkosakw ‘peach tree’ comes from German Pfirsich + the suffix -akw ‘tree’.

  10. Richard Hershberger says

    Only tangentially on point, but the Times’s editing seems to have slipped. It recently ran atravel piece on my home town in which the writer consistently wrote “south” when she should have written “north.” The accompanying map got it right, but no one caught the mistake. Come to think of it, the writer’s hook for the piece was about getting lost there. I took this to be metaphorical, but perhaps not.

  11. The best NJ town name is Cheesequake and it’s also not pronounced how you might expect.

    Perth Amboy is also good but the pronunciation is easy.

  12. David Marjanović says

    Skaneatles, NY; four syllables, more or less “skinny atlas”. Ought to be spelled with ä.

    Delaware pilkosakw ‘peach tree’ comes from German Pfirsich + the suffix -akw ‘tree’.

    So where does the -ko- come from?

  13. It’s part of the name of the fruit, which seems to have been extended with some kind of suffix upon borrowing. The following examples are from Lenape (= standardised Unami). The orthography is quite straightforward: vowels marked with a grave are short (and lax/centralised), unmarked ones are longer (and more peripheral); ë = [ə]; final kw = [kʍ]; l becomes [ɬ] word-finally and before consonants other than h, x. Stress is mostly penult, but moves one syllable to the left if the penult vowel is ë (as in pilkëshakw and apëlìsh).

    pilkësh ‘peach’ : pilkëshakw ‘peach-tree’
    apëlìsh ‘apple’ : apëlìshakw ‘apple-tree’
    chèlis ‘cherry’ : chèlisakw ‘cherry-tree’

    Not that I know much about the language. I’m just trying to make sense of the data.

  14. David Marjanović says

    Ah, now it makes sense: the [z] dropped out, the vowel behind it did as well, and the [ç] was borrowed as [k]…

  15. Chèlis is in all likelihood an adaptation of the English plural cherries, but the ‘peach’ and ‘apple’ cases look more complicated. Lenape forms names of some berry-type fruits with -im (but also with -ës, and there are some names of trees (and other plants) with the suffix -ënshi [-ˈə̃ʃi]. These suffixes can be combined with one another:

    tehim ‘strawberry’
    òkhatim ‘mulberry’ : òkhatimënshi ‘mulberry-tree’
    èkokolës ‘raspberry’ : èkokolësakw ‘raspberry bush’
    hmuwinkwës (pl. hmuwinksàk) ‘blackberry’ : hmuwinkwsakw ‘blackberry bush’
    puhwèsënakw ‘elder bush” : puhwèsënàkwim ‘elderberry (fruit)’

  16. P.S. The Wikipedia article on the Delaware languages says that the apple word comes from Dutch appels (pl.). It seems to me the source of pilkësh is also Dutch — perzik or possibly perzikjes, the plural of the diminutive, which would account for its odd shape in Lenape. The different treatment of the final fricative (between apples + peaches and cherries) would then reflect different sources and times of borrowing.

  17. Goddard, Dutch loanwords in Delaware:

    Munsee pi:lkǝš (also pi:lăkǝš) “peach,” pl. pi:lkǝ́šak; Unami pi:lkǝ̥š. From a regional variant of standard Dutch perzik, such as pirske or, if the -ǝš be taken as the Munsee diminutive, pirrek, pirk, or pierk (WNT 12.1:1360). Jersey Dutch had [pi:rkes] “peaches,” which must reflect the form of the word that Munsee borrowed.

  18. (Mea Culpa. Of course, Dutch is a much likelier source than German. Sloppy information printed long ago is not rendered more reliable when distributed over the internet.)

  19. See also this article by Pierre Swiggers (1988) (in a journal published by my own university department), p. 65. Swiggers also confirms my guess that Dutch /s, z/ were systematically substituted by Delaware /ʃ/, cf. Lenape sh(ë)mìt ‘smith’ (Dutch smid).

  20. In another way, Dave van Ronk has the final word on New Jersey toponymy.

  21. That’s great (and would be a good way to drive a foreign learner to despair, if you just had them listen to the recording without explaining what it was). I note that he pronounces Cheesequake exactly as you might expect, despite what nemanja said up there.

  22. Generations of boy scouts have learned terrible pronunciation of a few Lenape words through the Order of the Arrow. (For additional amusement, the Order’s song is sung to the tune of the tsarist national anthem, albeit in English.)

  23. Here only one US English speaker has the Chess-quick pronunciation — but she’s been voted to the top of the ranking. All the other American informants say Cheese-quake. Some foreigners (Brits, Australians, Canadians, Indians) opt for Cheese-a-quake (contamination with the Chesapeake Bay?)

    (By the way, the etymology of Cheesequake offered by Wikipedia seems wrong.)

  24. David Marjanović says

    pirrek, pirk, or pierk (WNT 12.1:1360). Jersey Dutch had [pi:rkes] “peaches,”


    Dutch /s, z/ were systematically substituted by Delaware /ʃ/

    Makes sense; they’re often “retracted” in Dutch.

  25. Supposed Cheesequake etymologies found in a quick search include “Cheseh-oh-ke, meaning ‘upland’ or ‘upland village'” (WP); Chiskhakink, ditto; Chauquisitt, ditto; Chichequaas, a name of a Lenape tribe; Chiskhake ‘land that has been cleared’; and Chiskhoki (no translation).

    Grumet’s Manhattan to Minisink, the only reasoned source I could find, says that in 1686 a creek mentioned in a land deed appears as Cheesequakes and Cheesequaques. It ascribes “Chiskhake ‘land that has been cleared'” to a suggestion by Nora Dean, a fluent speaker of Southern Unami.

  26. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The best NJ town name is Cheesequake and it’s also not pronounced how you might expect.

    In a state that has a town called Ho-Ho-Kus the competition for the best town name must be intense.

  27. Sounds like a kiss from Santa.

  28. The original Olney in Buckinghamshire, England is pronounced Oh-nee. The poet William Cowper and the hymn-writer John Newton lived there.

  29. I actually thought it was “Chess-uh-quick” but it’s one of those things in the Tri-State area that no one can seem to agree on. How to pronounce Van Wyck is another one of these.

  30. It is indeed; see this LH thread.

  31. Kate B – we chatted a bit about dropped L’s in British English a couple of years ago – see the post and comments on Bristol, palm, Holmes, Holborn, etc at

  32. marie-lucie says

    Bloix: not to mention walk and talk, and chalk, and psalm.

  33. The non-local spelling-pronunciation of Olney has become so common that even the locals consider it as acceptable beside /ˈəʊni/:

    I only wonder which l-full pronunciation they mean. By many accounts, /ˈɒlni/ is widespread, but John Wells, who is generally well informed about local British pronunciations, gives /ˈəʊlni/ as the only possibility, ignoring both the time-honoured l-less variant and the short-vowel one. To be sure, I bought my copy of Wells’s dictionary almost 30 years ago and perhaps he has corrected that entry since.

    On the Olney website they say, “It is not known exactly where the name Olney originated, although it is known to date back to Anglo Saxon times and was mentioned in the Treaty of Wedmore in 876AD when the Danes were here.” Well, OE Ollaneg can hardly be anything else than Ollan ēġ ‘Olla’s island’, quite consistent with the topography of the place. We just don’t happen to know who Olla was.

  34. Yes, the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names says:

    Olney Bucks. Ollanege 979, Olnei 1086 (DB). ‘Island, or dry ground in marsh, of a man called *Olla’. OE pers. name (genitive –n) + ēg.

  35. It seems the OE pronunciation of Ollan-ēġ as three syllables (æt Ollanege has the ending) was more or less reinstated in Maryland 😉

  36. Piotr: I’m a week late, but it’s worth saying: This is so wonderful I can hardly stand it!

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