How do you say “Kosciuszko?”
Updating the MTA announcements . Image 1.

Mike Sheffield


IF YOU’VE EVER SPENT TIME TRAVERSING BROOKLYN, chances are you’ve heard a sweet mid-western voice utter the indomitable phrase “Next stop is Kosciuszko Street.” Looking at the word “Kosciuszko” can be bewildering for non-Polish speaking Americans but hearing it is a whole different story. Often heard as “Ky-yous-ko,” Hopes&Fears wondered if this was correct. We wondered if a lot of the harder-to-parse subway names were pronounced correctly. And our inquiry led us to Carolyn Hopkins. 

Hopkins has been the subject of a recent surge of public interest after profiles by The New York Times, NPR, and CBS. She’s the female voice of New York City’s subway system, guiding you from station to station, borough to borough, with her friendly announcements. Working out of a home studio in Hampden, Maine, Hopkins recites travel information for a number of public transportation departments, from the Paris Metro to the Incheon in South Korea. How did she get this international gig? “Right place, right time," Hopkins told Hopes&Fears. "I was working in Louisville, Kentucky as a writer/producer for an audio/video production company when the sister company next door, Innovative Electronic Designs, invented computer-controlled announcement systems. I could do the voice that they wanted and… since 1984 I have been doing the female English voice at airports and subways like NY's MTA and Chicago's CTA.”

How did she know how to pronounce each subway station’s name? Hopkins explained that she already had a pretty good understanding of pronunciation and that the MTA gave her “a cassette tape in the 90's when the work on the system began.” The MTA officials we spoke to dodged any notion of this cassette. Meanwhile, train conductors are often left with the task of pronouncing these names, over and over again, transporting nearly 4.3 million riders each and every weekday (as of 2013).

We pinged experts on some of the more disputed pronunciations and spoke with various consulate offices of the countries from where these subway station names hail from.

As is the nature of pronunciation, we sought to get a professional voice actor to reenact these classic subway stations in a manner more fitting to their etymology. We brought Becca Kauffman, the voice of the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, into the studio for some announcement reenactments.

How do you say “Kosciuszko?”
Updating the MTA announcements . Image 2.

Becca Kauffman

Artist, Musician, Professional Voice Actor


Plays in: Ava Luna, a Brooklyn-based experimental rock act with equal elements R&B, post-funk, and krautrock

Voiced: Promotional materials for The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, an upcoming regional Target campaign



Kosciuszko Street

Pronounced: “Cosh-shoosh-ko”

What is it: Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kościuszko, a Polish military engineer and a military leader.

Source: A representative from the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland, NYC 


Ditmas Avenue

Pronounced: Dit-moss

WHAT IS IT: The last name of Johannes Ditmas, a Quartermaster in the Kings County Regiment of Militia and participated in the Revolutionary War.

Source: A representative from the Dutch Consulate of NYC 



DeKalb Avenue

Pronounced: De-kolb

What is it: Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb, born Johann Kalb, a German-born French officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was killed in action during the Battle of Camden.

Source: A representative from the German Consulate of NYC



Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets

Pronounced: “Skizz-merhorn”

What is it: A habitational name from a place so named in the area of the Schermermeer of northern Holland. John Freeman Schermerhorn (September 24, 1786–March 16, 1851), Indian Commissioner, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Barnard Freeman Schermerhorn and Ariaantje Van der Bogart.

Source: A representative from the Dutch Consulate of NYC



Mosholu Parkway

Pronounced: “Ma-shoo-lu”

What is it: “Mosholu” is an Algonquin name meaning “smooth stones” or “small stones” for the nearby creek now known as Tibbett's Brook.

Source: A representative from the National Museum of the American Indian, NYC



Euclid Avenue


WHAT IS IT: Euclid of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "Father of Geometry."

SOURCE: A representative from the General Consulte of Greece, NYC



…and bonus round

Houston Street

PRONOUNCED: "Hew-stun"

WHAT IS IT: William Houston, an American teacher, lawyer, and statesman. He was a delegate to both the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention for New Jersey.

SOURCE: A representative of not being a stubborn New Yorker who insists on mispronouncing names