Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why is there the “The” in The Bronx?

I’ve often wondered why certain street names and places are named as they are. So, in keeping with the theme of the last post (Houston Street), I am examining not only how but why The Bronx is called The Bronx. Now, unlike the other four boroughs of the Greater City of New York (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island), The Bronx has two distinctions. One is that The Bronx is the only borough that is not either on an island or is it’s own island (Manhattan and Staten Island on their own islands and Queens/Brooklyn being on the western part of Long Island). The Bronx is located on the mainland. Second is that The Bronx is the only borough that is referred to in the definite particle of “The”.

Is it ego? Albeit, The Bronx can be a hard place to live in and to those who live there, living there and surviving is a badge of honor. But though many may claim it to be that a place like The Bronx deserves to be referred to with a “The”, there is a simpler reason why. Before I go into it, some simple dates and facts would be necessary for background reasons.

With the “discovery” of the island of Manhattan by Henry Hudson in 1609, the Dutch set up a series of trading settlements along the Hudson River. For the sake of this article, we’ll focus in on the Southern settlement of New Amsterdam. By the 1620’s, colonists started to make the journey from Europe to the “New World” to make a new life for themselves and their families. One of these individuals came to New Amsterdam from Holland was Jonas Bronck. Arriving on the ship De Brent Von Trogon (The Fire of Troy) in 1639, Bronck acquired a large tract of land between the Great Kills (Hudson River) and The Aqualung (The East River).

As the years progressed, villages and settlements developed throughout the area of what become known as Bronx with the Bronx River being the central point of the area. But why was in not known as Bronck? Since most of the population of the time had a particular lack of literacy, they read and wrote their words in the manner in which they spoke them. Hence the word Bronck became Bronx. Though originally part of Westchester, the western towns of Morrisania, West Farms and Kingsbridge were annexed to New York City in 1874 becoming the 23rd and 24th Wards of New York City. The Eastern part was annexed to New York City in 1895, three years before the Greater City of New York was created. The Bronx remained part of New York County until the year 1914 when it gained borough status. The citizens in honor of the river that runs through the new county chose the name of the new borough to reflect it.

Now here comes the reason for the “The”. Rivers are always referred to in the definite article. For example: The Nile, The Amazon, The Mississippi and The Bronx. So, since the borough was named after The Bronx River the County is also called The Bronx. There you have it, when someone asks you why The Bronx is named THE Bronx you can tell them.