Pronouncing the 59th Street Bridge

In the latest (April 10th) issue of the New Yorker, Slight Headache Dept.: “I Say Koch” by Nick Paumgarten, on pronouncing the family name Koch. The lead-in has Apple Maps directing someone to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (which is really the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge — do honor to Simon & Garfunkel — or just the Queensboro Bridge),

pronounced Koch “coke,” as in the Koch brothers, Charles and David, the industrialists and underwriters of right-wing causes — rather than “kotch,” as in the Mayor. What a maroon.

Ed Koch contemplating the 59th St. Bridge (caricature by Tom Bachtell)

And then:

there are so many pronunciations of Koch to choose from. Among the “cokes” are Kenneth, the poet, and Bill, the Nordic-skiing star from Vermont, whose father, Frederick, in 1985, amid his frustration over getting called “kotch” during Ed’s term, had his last name legally changed to Coke-Is-It. (When the Coca-Cola Company sued, he was listed in court documents as “It, Coke Is.”) Sam Koch, the Baltimore Ravens punter, is a “cook” (as any Sam should prefer). So was Tom, the Madwriter. Pietro Koch, a particularly brutal Italian Fascist feared even by Mussolini, was a “cock.” Ilse Koch, the notorious Bitch of Buchenwald, was a “cochhh.” [But that was pronounced in German, with a final [x], not a [k]]

and a political note:

Ed Koch hated [REDACTED], and vice versa. [REDACTED] called Koch a “moron,” and Koch called [REDACTED] “greedy, greedy, greedy” and “piggy, piggy, piggy.” The Times recently reported on papers that had been dug up by Pat Thaler, Koch’s sister, which contained some previously unpublished remarks by Koch: “[REDACTED] is one of the least likable people I have met during the twelve years that I served as mayor. It is incomprehensible to me that for some people he has become a folk hero.”

On Koch pronounced like cock. Well, then, there are people with the actual surname Cock. More news for penises. From Wikipedia:

The surname Cock is derived from the Dutch and Flemish surname de Cock, alternately found as de Cook or de Kok and can be Anglicanised as Cook, and comes from the occupation of a cook.

The name Cock is also a variant spelling of Cox, which is of Old English or Welsh origin, and developed independently of the Dutch and Flemish name.

(The most recent persons of note with the surname Cock were born in the early 20th century; apparently families came to avoid the name, changing it to Cook or something else.)

Then there are the names Cocke; Cocks; Coxe, Coxen, and Coxon; and surnames with Cock as a first element, like Cockayne. Cocke, homophonous with Cock, derives from ME cok ‘cock, rooster’; there’s a Wikipedia page for it too. A recent notable person of that name: John Cocke (5/30/1925 – 7/16/2002), an American computer scientist recognized for his contributions to computer architecture and optimizing compiler design.


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