The Daily Plant : Thursday, December 29, 2005
What’s In A Name?
If you ever studied a Romance language, you were probably often saved by the fact that many words sound the same in English as they do in the language you were studying. For example, the Spanish word for car is caro or coche. On the other hand, there are also false cognates, of which you teacher probably told you to beware. For example, exito in Spanish means luck, not exit. Similarly, we have many parks with false cognates. So, while you’d be right to guess that Washington Square Park is named after George Washington, here are a few examples where a park’s assumed name and its actual meaning are quite different.
Bloomingdale Playground and Park: Neither of these properties (one in Brooklyn the other in Staten Island) have anything to do with the famous store. In Manhattan, the playground’s name pays homage to the old Dutch neighborhood of Bloomingdale; a road with the same name also once ran on the west side of Manhattan. In Staten Island, no one is really sure where the Bloomingdale name came from; it’s quite possible that it is literally a "blooming dale" or basin.
Bush-Clinton Playground: Although it got its name in the 1990’s, don’t read too much politics into this name. This playground is named for Bush and Clinton streets in Brooklyn, which bound the area. Bush Street was most likely named for one of the many prominent Bush families who lived in the neighborhood. Clinton Street is named after De Witt Clinton (1769-1828), who served as the mayor of New York City, a member of the United States Senate, and, ultimately, as the governor of New York.
Carl Schurz Park: It’s easy to hear this park’s name and think Carl Schultz, the creator of the beloved Charlie Brown cartoons. In reality, Carl Schurz Park was named in 1910 to honor the soldier, statesman, and journalist Carl Schurz (1829-1906). After emigrating to the United States from Cologne, Germany in 1852, Schurz quickly made his reputation as a skilled orator and was instrumental in Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election campaign. His most significant political offices were that of United States Senator from Missouri (1869-1875) and Secretary of the Interior (1877-81).
Hugh Grant Circle: A smile only goes so far…it’s not enough to get a park named after you. This Hugh Grant was named after New York City Mayor Hugh J. Grant (1857-1910). The owner of several west-side taverns, Grant made connections with many local Irish-American organizations that aided his political career. Backed by Tammany Hall, Grant became a New York Alderman in 1882, sheriff of New York in 1885, and mayor in 1889. Grant is remembered as New York City’s youngest mayor (he was inaugurated when he was 31 years old).
Hunter Island had nothing to do with hunting (though Shooter’s Island did). In fact, this property is named for John Hunter, whose family owned the land for nearly 50 years during the 1800’s. It is located in the northeast corner of Pelham Bay Park, near the popular Orchard Beach.
Trojan Courts: In the world of the Keyspan Park and the Staples Center, Trojan Courts might seem like another case of corporate naming. Slightly more refined readers might think of Helen, and the Ancient Greeks. The latter would be a better guess, but still wrong. In fact, it is named for the Trojans, a Bronx amateur baseball club that used the fields in the 1930s. Originally called Pelham Field, Trojan Courts is one of the smaller features of Bronx Park.
-written by John Mattera
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and
looks like work."
Thomas Alva Edison