How is "Coenties" pronounced?
March 20, 2006 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know how "Coenties" is currently pronounced, as in "Coenties Slip?"

I am more interested in the pronunciation of people who now live and work in the area, as opposed to how it may have been pronounced historically. (Coenties Slip is the name of a street in Manhattan.)
posted by gubo to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
On those very, very few times I've heard someone say it, it's been KOEN-teez, with that oe like the German ö.

But according to a Talk of the Town piece in the New Yorker a year ago, the proper, New Amsterdam-style pronunciation of the word might be, believe it or not, KWIN-chiz.

There are all sorts of opportunities for New Yorker to mangle our Dutch (Spuyten Duyvil is often a disaster), but get Houston Street wrong and I'll never talk to you again.
posted by j.s.f. at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2006

I pronounce Coenties as "kenteez."

(And Spuyten Duyvil is "spy ten dye vil," right?)
posted by scratch at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2006

The correct dutch pronunciation would be KOONtese, as it probably derives from one of the family names coentjes, koentjes or kuentjes. I don't know New York Dutch, but KWIN-chiz sounds very strange to my Dutch ears.
posted by Psychnic at 1:13 PM on March 20, 2006

Best answer: The correct dutch pronunciation would be KOONtese

And that's how I say it, for lack of anything better; I've asked this question of a number of people and gotten no help. New Yorkers just don't seem to talk about Coenties Slip.

On those very, very few times I've heard someone say it, it's been KOEN-teez, with that oe like the German ö.

Are you sure about that? I find it hard to believe that any substantial number of English speakers would use (or even be able to pronounce) the German ö.

Just for handy reference, here's the relevant bit from j.s.f.'s New Yorker link:
How do you pronounce Coenties Slip? (The library doesn’t have a definitive answer, though it does possess a card file with a reference to a letter from 1915 in which the writer asserts, “I have recently obtained confirmation of the pronunciation ‘Quinches,’ as being the correct New York-Dutch version.”)
Note that it doesn't say that's a "New Amsterdam-style pronunciation" (i.e., how the original Dutch settlers said it, which would be a ridiculous statement) but the "New York-Dutch version"—i.e., how New Yorkers of Dutch heritage (like the Roosevelts) would have said it, long after the period when Dutch was actually spoken there. I don't know how you'd prove it, but that's at least plausible, and in 1915 there were still a fair number of such people around.

Fun fact: President Van Buren and his wife spoke Dutch at home.
posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2006

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