The Dutch Contribution to New York's Vocabulary

By: Tony the Tour Guide

As the founders of our town, the Dutch had the opportunity to contribute a colorful variety of words to our vocabulary. To introduce ourselves to these, let’s look at a typical day in the life of a typical New Yorker:

If our New Yorker is from BROOKLYN (Breukelen –either a town in Holland or a word meaning "land of brooks"), he may be living in a neighborhood such as FLATBUSH (from Vlackebos, meaning "level forest"), BUSHWICK (Boswijck, meaning "wooded district"), or perhaps NEW UTRECHT. If he is from the BRONX, he may be on land once owned by Jonas Bronck, a Swedish sea captain. Or perhaps he resides in HARLEM (New Haarlem, named for yet another place in the Netherlands).  

As he rides to work on the subway, Mr Typical opens the morning paper and starts to read about pollution in the waterways surrounding STATEN ISLAND (Staaten Eylandt, named for the States General, the then governing body of Holland). The Arthur KILL (meaning "stream") is endangered due to rubbish falling off of the Sanitation Department’s SCOWS (riverboats), as well as debris discarded by careless boaters from their YACHTS. Another story tells of the plight of homeless people living on the BOWERY (meaning "farm," as this street follows the path of a road leading to a Peter Stuyvessant’s farm). 

Exiting the subway, our hero stops at a deli for a cup of coffee and a CRULLER. As he arrives at his office he receives harsh words from the BOSS for being late. "What a DOPE!" he whispers to himself.  Angrily he slams his office door, frightening a colleague. Seeing the nervous look on his friend’s face, Mr Typical remarks "You look like you’ve just seen a SPOOK (ghost). 

An important deadline is upon him, so our hero must skip lunch. He makes do with a quick carbo fix in the form of an oatmeal COOKIE. 

After work Mr. Typical comes home, where he finds some neighborhood teenagers hanging out of his STOOP. The major contribution of the Dutch to our city’s architecture), a New York stoop is far more than a series of stone steps leading to a house. To millions of working-class New Yorkers, it has been a place to relax, socialize, people-watch and play street games. As he enters his apartment, he sees that there is a message waiting on his machine. It’s his boss, telling him that, if he’s late again, he’ll "end up in Dutch."