Fact: I live in Clinton Hill,
It’s one of those quintessential Brooklyn Avenues that has several different incarnations depending where you hit it. Unlike Manhattan streets like Ludlow or West End Avenue or 23rd Street, where you pretty much know what you’re getting, there are some streets in Brooklyn—like Bedford, Myrtle, Atlantic, Fulton, and Flatbush, where you can’t be sure if you’ll be afraid to come out of the subway because you’ll be getting stared down by hipsters or gunned down by Russian mobsters. DeKalb, the avenue in question, is one of these
Fact: Though I live in Clinton Hill, I grew up—as the five people who read this blog know—in And from my own informal research, I have discovered that no one but New Yorkers pronounce it the way they do, which leads me to believe that they are wrong. Ask people in the Midwest, ask me (a Now, I know a lot of people reading are thinking that this a pretty provincial-sounding argument. Be that as it may—Friends, Haters, Brooklynites…Lend me your ears! I propose to you a landmark event in
And from my own informal research, I have discovered that no one but New Yorkers pronounce it the way they do, which leads me to believe that they are wrong. Ask people in the Midwest, ask me (a
Now, I know a lot of people reading are thinking that this a pretty provincial-sounding argument. Be that as it may—Friends, Haters, Brooklynites…Lend me your ears! I propose to you a landmark event in
It starts with you and me, and ends when we’re sitting at a bus-stop in Brooklyn next to a mother and child, and the little girl turns to her mother who has just pronounced the avenue in question, where they are headed on this tranquil Sunday afternoon, with a harsh, throaty “A,” hard “L” and an equally stressed “B.” It seems to disrupt the very tranquility of the scene. And the little girl turns to her mother and says, “No, mommy. It’s pronounced…Dee-cab.” And we will smile silently beside them and nod our graying locks and realize that change, though it comes slowly, eventually comes to the righteous.
But don’t think that this will be an easy crusade. I have fought, over the past several months, ever since moving out to Brooklyn, where I live on an avenue squarely between a street called
I have a friend who hails from these Northern parts. She lives far out on the L-Train in
We were discussing this very subject around a bar one night in Brooklyn. I have another friend who grew up in Atlanta, like me, and I was going around the room trying to convert the lost, the depraved, the over-pronouncing, when I turned to my friend, looking for support. He shook his head: “We’re not in Georgia, Mik. When we’re on DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn we're on DeKahlLb, not Deecab. The same way we’re not on Hugh-ston Street when we’re downtown.” Traitor, I thought. You are the Benedict Arnold of pronunciation.
Which brings me to the thesis of my argument today. Dear
My customary way for explaining why people in
I agree that this can be shot down on the grounds that there are other words featuring a pre-consonant “L” of the DeKalb variety in which the “L” is indeed pronounced. But here is my ace in the hole. Yes, loyal five readers, Mik did some research.
The DeKalb County in Georgia—and I suspect all the other places that share its name, like the avenue that runs along Fort Greene Park—is named after Baron Johann of Kalb, a German soldier in the Revolutionary army who fought for American freedom and died as a prisoner of the British. His last name was Kalb, pronounced (get ready for it)…
It’s pronounced the way you guys pronounce it…
Fuck it. I’m still not changing the way I say it. I bet people in Germany thought the homie Johann DeKalb was crazy for crossing an ocean to fight for a people he didn't even know. I, too, Mik Awake, am fighting a similar fight in Brooklyn, for the future of street pronunciations.
Indeed, thanks to people like Johann, this is a democratic country, and even people who are wrong deserve the chance to tell us why they were so misguided. So, that being the case, I open up the debate to you, oh loyal five.
How do you pronounce DeKalb?