It’s pronounced “HOW-stuhn.” (Photo by Nicolas McComber/Getty Images)

The sleek second span of the Kosciuszko Bridge just opened, costing $873 million and promising to alleviate traffic between Brooklyn and Queens by 65%.  Despite the recent improvement, the name remains as difficult to pronounce as ever. Even for native New Yorkers, the name “Kosciuszko”  looks like a six-car pileup of consonants.

Kosciuszko is one of the city’s many unusual place names. Newcomers are often confounded by the pronunciation of “Houston Street, ” which, for whatever reason, doesn’t follow the city in Texas.

These names can get especially tricky for a traffic reporter like Greg Rice, of radio station 1010 WINS, who has to say them on air every day. Rice says that while his station does think through how to pronounce certain New York place names, he has his own personal quirks. For example, he always pronounces the Van Wyck Expressway as Van “Wick,” not Van “Wike,” as many locals do.

With some help from Rice himself, here’s how to pronounce 10 of the trickiest place names in New York City.


kah-skee-OOS-koh, kos-skee-OSS-koh or kuh-SHOO-skoh

Both a bridge and a street in Brooklyn, this name is Polish through and through. Tadeusz Kosciuszko was a Polish military leader who fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War and led a Polish coup against Russia. It seems that New Yorkers have a few different ways of pronouncing his name, though, so if you butcher it, you won’t be alone. While the proper Polish pronunciation is “kuh-SHOO-skoh,” many Brooklynites seem to go with “kah-skee-OSS-koh.” Rice sticks to the Brooklyn pronunciation as well.


SKIM-er-horn or SKER-mer-horn

Schermerhorn Street runs through Brooklyn neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill. The Dutch name belonged to a prominent New York family in the 1700s.


Moh-SHOO-loo, MOSH-ah-lu, etc.

According to a New York Times article from 1990, “Mosholu” (as in the Bronx’s Mosholu Parkway) is the name that the Wechguasgeeck Indians gave to Tibbets Brook. It means “smooth or small stones.” However, a historian quoted by the Times, John McNamara, said that despite being a native of the Bronx, he wasn’t sure there’s a single correct way to pronounce it. Rice, the traffic reporter, has a clearer answer: “Mosh-ah-lu.”



Reportedly one of the most commonly mispronounced places in the U.S., Houston Street runs across Lower Manhattan. Because of it, we have neighborhood names like NoHo and SoHo (short for “North of Houston” and “South of Houston,” respectively). The trick is that this name is not pronounced like the city in Texas, but instead with a “how” in the beginning. This is because the street was named after William Houstoun, who married the daughter of Nicholas Bayard, the mayor of New York from 1685 to 1686. The street was originally named Houstoun Street, but the spelling was later changed.

‘Spuyten Duyvil’

SPY-tin DIE-vuhl

Spuyten Duyvil is the name of the creek between Manhattan and the Bronx, as well as an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx. The words are, unsurprisingly, Dutch in origin, but can be translated two different ways depending on whom you ask. One is “devil’s whirlpool,” while the other is “to spite the devil.” This second translation was popularized by a Washington Irving story featuring a Dutch trumpeter who vowed to swim across the creek during the British attack on New Amsterdam “in spite of the devil.”



This street in Downtown Brooklyn is named after Teunis Joralemon, who was a lawyer and judge in the borough from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.



The word for this Brooklyn neighborhood and infamously polluted canal likely originates from the name of a Native American who planted there back in the 17th century. The word likely means “to sleep” or “he rests.”



Just one of many Long Island Rail Road stops that are hard to pronounce, Patchogue derives from the language of he Native Americans who once lived in the area, similar to Hauppauge, Quogue, Massapequa and Nissequogue. Try saying all those five times fast.



Secaucus is a suburb between Jersey City and Union City, New Jersey, and a popular stop on New Jersey Transit. Twenty percent of its employed residents commute to New York City. The city’s name comes from a combination of Algonquin words meaning “black snake” or “place of snakes.” While residents use the pronunciation above, the city name is also commonly pronounced “SUH-kaw-kes.” Rice, who lived there for a few years, says the locals never corrected him for using “suh” rather than the “see.”

‘Boerum Hill’

BORE-um Hill

While it might seem obvious to some, the name of this picturesque Brooklyn nabe isn’t pronounced bory-um, but bore-um, which does sound a lot less silly. The neighborhood is named after the Boreum family, which owned a farm in the area during Colonial times.

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