Did You Know? from MetroBlogs

Each Thursday, Metroblogs NYC posts an interesting, little-known trivia tidbit that will help you get to know this city we call home and will also shock and amaze others at parties or around the coffee machine at work. If you have a suggestion for a good trivia subject, LET US KNOW. You can read past trivia entries here.

MB_didyouknow-thumb.jpgNew York is a vast and large city, with each borough acting semi-autonomously. This phenomenon is present because at one time, the five boroughs were in fact separate cities. At one time, Manhattan and Brooklyn were the urban havens, while Staten Island, the Bronx, and much of Queens were “farm country.” But, once they finally did unite as one in 1898, each individual borough kept its cultural ties, historic individuality, and name. Did you ever wonder where their monikers came from? Well, here is your guide.

The Bronx: Though it had been called Rananchqua by local Indians, the borough’s moniker would change. In 1639, a retired sea captain of Swedish origin named Jonas Bronck purchased a plot of farmland located across the Harlem River from the island of Manhattan, near the modern district of Mott Haven. Though he died just four short years later, European settlers would continue to refer to the land as “Bronck’s Land,” or “Bronck’s,” which evolved into “The Bronx.”

Brooklyn– When the Dutch settlers came to the New York area, they were understandably weary and homesick. So, to keep home in their hearts, they named local areas after their homeland. So, when it came time to name their home town, why not name it after the beautiful town they originated from, Breuckelen. As the small town (located directly across from “Nieuw Amsterdam” continued to grow and annex other local villages (like “Williamsburgh” and Bushwick), they became part of the town of Breuckelen. With time, the name of the city was Angelicanized to its current form.

Queens– Originally made up of a number of individual towns (Flushing, Bayside, Newtown, Jamaica, etc), Queens didn’t come together until the late 1600s. At that time, the city was named after Catherine of Braganza, Portuguese princess and the queen consort of King Charles II of England. Interestingly, Queens remains the only borough that is still semi-divided by individual towns, which is why letters sent to Queens are addressed to an individual town name (Forest Hills, for example) instead of the borough name.

Staten Island– In 1609, when Henry Hudson established trade with the Indians on the island, he named it Staaten Eylandt after the Staten-Generaal, the Dutch parliament. This name, too, was anglicanized to the modern form.

Manhattan– The name of the borough is derived from a Lenape Indian word “Manna-hata,” which translates to “land of many hills.” Like the other boroughs, many neighborhood names are Anglicanized versions of the original Dutch names of the areas:
* BoweryBouwerij, the old Dutch word for farm.
* Gramercy – named for a stream which meandered like a ‘crooked little knife,’ or ‘Crom messie‘ in old Dutch (‘Krom mesje‘).
* Gansevoort Market or Gansevoort Street – Named for Peter Gansevoort, a Colonel in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

5 Comments so far

  1. Velvet Sea (unregistered) on January 25th, 2007 @ 11:55 am

    i always find it strange that The Bronx has that “the” in front of it.


  2. PP (unregistered) on January 25th, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    very interesting!!


  3. Neil (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 2:09 am

    That would have been good for Akeem to know before Coming to America.


  4. Neil (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 2:11 am

    Semmi: But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king.

    Prince Akeem, Semmi: Queens!

    Sorry, I had to add that.


  5. Noah (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 10:12 am

    Yes, Velvet. That annoys me too! Especially when someone from the Bronx (Bronxian?) gets annoyed.

    It is a similar phenomenon to when my high school friend Neil (who posted the comment above this one) would watch the end of the NFL postgame show. Being a huge fan of “The X-Files,” he got annoyed when the football guys would just say “Up next, X-Files!” with no “the” in front.

    Neil is an oddball.



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