It’s not just repairing a bridge that takes longer than it used to

Remember the recent Op-Ed by Larry Summers on the difficulty of repairing bridges rapidly?  Well, this problem has a new angle:

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, was named after an Italian explorer. There is just one problem: The man is widely known as Giovanni da Verrazzano, with two z’s.

More than a half-century after the bridge opened, some New Yorkers are calling for the spelling error to be corrected. An online petition taking up the cause has brought renewed attention to the enduring discrepancy.

“By rectifying Verrazzano’s name, we’re really saying to all Italians and Italian-Americans that we respect them and appreciate them,” said Joseph V. Scelsa, the president of the Italian American Museum in Lower Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not appear eager to tackle the issue. A spokesman for the authority, Christopher McKniff, said adjusting the bridge’s name would be an expensive and labor-intensive undertaking.

“At this time, we are not considering any name change for the Verrazano Bridge,” Mr. McKniff said in a statement that hewed to the one-z spelling.

Here is the full NYT story.


We need a social media campaign to get McKniff fired, his wife fired, his children expelled from school, and his house vandalized.

Quick, someone light the Gawker signal!

Call-ing Pe-ter, call-ing Pe-ter.

They first need naked pictures of his kids.

Joseph V. Scelsa needs a job or to spend more time with his children and grand children.

He's a clinical psychologist retired into a job running a small museum in Little Italy. Making waves like this isn't his job, but it's adjacent to his job.

Actually that's funny "...this isn’t his job, but it’s adjacent to his job."

But seriously, the world is going to hell in a hand basket and he is worrying about a missing letter because of "Italian pride" or something. Has he seen what is happening to Italy. Within a decade or so Italy will become a part of the caliphate. Europe may well be in a civil war. Terrorist attacks may become everyday occurrences in Europe. Our own government inundates us with white noise and static to keep us from seeing the threat. This is a time to speak up about important issues not the name of a bridge.

The Barossa valley in South Australia is similar.
It was meant to be the Barrosa valley, but due to a clerical error was transcribed incorrectly.

Eventually these things become correct by virtue of being the name for that thing for a long time. Just like "irregardless" is now in the dictionary.

ir-re-gard-less (adj). A gibberish word propagated by pinheads

I used to get mad about things like irregardless. But then I realized that this is not the hill I want to die on.

I was under the impress that a lot of people are now running around with different names than their families origianlly had in the "old country" because someone in immegration didn't understand or possible just didn't llike the name provided. Is this really a big deal for a Bridge but a none issue for real people and their descendants?

One of my favorite immigration jokes:

Immigration officer: Next!
Confused German immigrant steps up
Immigration officer: What is your name?
Immigration officer: I need to know your name to write it down.
Immigrant: Ich habe vergessen.
Immigration officer: Jacob Ferguson. Here's your paperwork. Next!

I'm reminded of the big Japanese instruments maker Nohau. When I first started seeing their ads in this country, I thought that's dumb. The people back in Japan won't care how the name of the company is spelled in English as long as it's pronounced correctly. They should have named the U.S. branch of the company Knowhow.

It is an absolutely insignificant part of the Godfather films that the name of the Corleone family is not Corleone. Vito Andolini had to flee his home town of Corleone (Heart of the Lion I assume) but when passing through Ellis Island the Anglophone immigration officer confused his surname with his birthplace.

But they did not seem to mind.

Got rid of the umlauts. Never missed them.

Yeah, I have a weird Lithuanian name that my grandfather said was mangled going through immigration in Baltimore in the late 1800's.

Some people changed their names voluntarily, too. My stepmother is Italian, her family's name back in the old country was, I believe, Tati or Tatis or something. Her gramps changed it to Tate when he settled in Pennsylvania coal country.

You see this often with names - Oprah Winfrey for instance. Or Condoleezza Rice.

The question with modern names is one of intent. The question with historical names is authenticity. What did the people at the time do? We are trying to tidy up the past by making them conform to modern spellings. This is stupid.

Would be much easier to change the name if it was named for a US Representative or Senator.

And if they were a Republican it would be done overnight...

Let's find out if he owned a slave.

The bridge is only named after him because of persistent lobbying from Italian American groups. Live by political pandering, die by political pandering.

A third of the population of Staten Island is ethnic Italian. A similar share of the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn is ethnic Italian. Signor Verraz(z)ano has a historical connection to the site.

It doesn't need to be changed overnight. They can just update the spelling as they replace each sign over the years. After all, there's no reason to hurry.

Throw in a 'zzz' now and then, for fun and to improve the average.

And have ZZ Top play at the grand opening of the newly-named bridge?

"They can just update the spelling as they replace each sign over the years."

And have different signs with different spellings? That sounds like a recipe for confusion.

Yeah, you don't want people ending up on Staten Island by mistake.

I giggled at this.

No inefficiency here

The idea of "fixing" a working have is stupid. Unless one's most important issue is historical precision. Go fix "drive thru".....

Neglected is how damaging the change is.
Online maps. Possible hindered street signs

And decades to go with old ladies unable to find the bridge due to the newly "improved" spelling

Useless improvement should be legally banned

It's a lot cheaper to rename a bridge than build (or fix) one. Just like it's a lot cheaper to have a moment of silence than to stop the sale of weapons intended for hunting people (as opposed to hunting game). Besides, actually doing something is incompatible with the first priority of cutting taxes. Hence, we get the politicians and government we deserve: poser. I should mention that it's a lot cheaper to save souls than to save people (from hunger or homelessness or illness). Hence, piety is the new religion. Of course, posers aren't limited to politicians and religionists: in business, advertising has been redefined as "technology".

fwiw, piety was the old religion, too.

rayward, television and radio and newspapers and every other human-facing communications TECHNOLOGY was paid for with advertising. Why your panties are in a twist about it is hard to fathom.

I don't know what to call this - temporal Imperialism? It is an attempt to force everyone to agree to use a modern, in this case Italian, spelling. Did Giovanni da Verrazzano spell his name that way? As with Shakespeare it is unlikely he was even consistent. There was no standardized spelling until there was a national government to standardize it.

And Wikipedia seems to agree:

He signed documents employing a Latin version of his name, “Janus Verrazanus,” and in his will dated 11 May 1526 in Rouen, France (preserved at the Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime), he called himself “Jehan de Verrazane.”

Like "Oriental" it is just the usual political activists trying to bully the rest of us into compliance.

Like it. Next time someone points out that I'm factually wrong about something, I'll just call them a typical political activist trying to bully me into compliance with correctness.

I might try that. If I am ever wrong. But I am sure it will work for you. Just not in this case. Who is wrong? There is no evidence that Verrazano spelled his name the preferred modern way. So why use it?

This is a case where you would have to make a case for a change. Not simply accuse everyone of racism.

What sort of pompous dimwit thinks that standardised spelling was feature of the 16th century?

WKPD: "a certain French scholarship assumes that Verrazzano was born in Lyon, France, the son of Alessandro di Bartolommeo da Verrazano and Giovanna Guadagni. Whatever the case, Verrazzano always considered himself to be Florentine and was considered a Florentine by his contemporaries as well. He signed documents employing a Latin version of his name, “Janus Verrazanus,” and in his will dated 11 May 1526 in Rouen, France (preserved at the Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime), he called himself “Jehan de Verrazano.”

It looks like three votes for a single "z" spelling.

This isn't hard. In the context of the French language, he used one z. In the context of Italian, he used two. Just as I might call myself Ricardo in Spanish but Riccardo in Italian.

"Italian" didn't exist then. If you mean "in a Tuscan dialect" you should say so. have you any evidence that he used a consistent spelling?

In the context of the French language, he used one z. In the context of a Tuscan dialect, he used two.

Do you have an example of him using the two z form in Tuscan we can look at?

I would look here or here or <a href=""here.

And what did he use when he was in the tri-State area?

“By rectifying Verrazzano’s name, we’re really saying to all Italians and Italian-Americans that we respect them and appreciate them"

No, we do that by eating pizza (spelled with two z's) and spaghetti (spelled with two t's).

Also by watching Rocky and The Sopranos.

This is a very common issue. It has to do with the large expense that comes from adding up small costs. Any time a government changes the name of a street or a landmark, new material needs to be created - maps, letterhead, forms, etc. The cost isn't limited to government, but includes businesses and residents located in the area. I know, we live in a digital age, but not really.

The Federal government actually has a body whose job it is to go over the maps and remove racially offensive place names. They change hundreds of places every year.

It doesn't cost as much as you think because most offensive place names tend to be in remote, rural regions and so not a lot needs to be changed. For some recent examples:

The first one claims that the Florida Keys have been renamed because they were racially insensitive. There is still a town of Jewfish and an islet called Cudjoe. What else was racially insensitive?

"It doesn’t cost as much as you think because most offensive place names tend to be in remote, rural regions and so not a lot needs to be changed."

It costs just as much as I think in places that are not rural and remote, such as New York City.

What does Cudjoe even mean?

And I would not be offended at all by Jewfish, assuming said fish is presented finely chopped and surrounded by disgusting jelly. That would only be accurate.

Some people in Ghana and nearby parts name their children according to the day they are born. As in Kofi Annan (Friday) or Kwame Nkrumah (Saturday).

Cudjoe is an obvious slave name meaning that the owner of said name came from West Africa and was born on a Monday.

The less interesting question is whether Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Mayor of Detroit, was born on a Saturday. If not, is that cultural appropriation?

He was born on a Monday. Corrupt from the start.

As former Rhode Islander, I can say proudly - it is one of the few things Rhode Island got right As far as renaming, the town of Manchester in MA is now Manchester by the Sea it was renamed about 20 years years. I guess they thought it sounded better, but it doesn't smell better, it still has a sewer treatment plant right in the middle of downtown - that is harder to change.

>“By rectifying Verrazzano’s name, we’re really saying to all Italians and Italian-Americans that we respect them and appreciate them,” said Joseph V. Scelsa

... who then added "However we're still adamantly in favor of accusing Christopher Columbus of mass-scale genocide every October. I'm sure you understand."

Hell if the number of z's in Verrazzano is an outrage, imagine how they must feel that you said Columbus and not Colombo.

Although "z" and "zz" are actually pronounced differently in Italian. one z is a smoother sound, like a cross between z and s in English. zz is a harder sound - more like: t (stop) z.

Let's rename it the Trump bridge and be done with it.

Maybe we can find a wall somewhere and name it for him as well.

After all, its a Huge bridge.

Given the three New York billionaires running in this election, I support this. In fact we ought to rename it Trump Bridge, going from Trumplyn to Trump Island.

We should build that wall around New Trump. Making sure that the right New Trumpers are on the right side of the wall. Then blow up the bridge.

As long as we jail anyone called Snake Plissken life should be much better.

The correct spelling is yuuuge. Three u's and y. Come on. Get with the times.

I wonder how much of this might simply be a case of technology lockin of some form or other. Clearly if the name on the sign of the bridge -- and perhaps a few references to that name elsewhere in the DOT files is all that were impacted the cost and labor input would be largely trivial.

If that name is something that's caught up as an identifier that is more than just a label but perhaps also connects to legislation, funding/budgeting ... now there's going to be a lot of work.

This is from a Curbed piece on the debate:

"It was estimated to cost $4 million to replace the Triborough Bridge with the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge on road signs when the name changed in 2008."

For Democratic Party hacks, you can never have too many Kennedy tributes.

I'm hoping for a sensible Republican administration which re-names that performing arts building after Jackie O , strips every other piece of federal property of the Kennedy name, and douses that eternal flame.

$4 million? How much of that is graft, corruption, featherbedding and such? Public sector trough at work, slowly, again. Privatization isn't a panacea but there has to be some way to audit and enforce in the public sector that makes tax dollars go further.

The Port Authority has a wretched reputation and Gov. Cuomo has blocked efforts at reforming practices. A shady minor local pol employed in the Giuliani Administration had this to say: "the Cuomo's have always been thugs at heart". His father developed a reputation of being a weirdly vindictive man and his son lacks his father's flashes of moral seriousness.

Trump's a weirdly vindictive man and lacks any moral seriousness. But he's a Rep so let's vote for him.

Vindictiveness is in these days. The pettier the better.

Well, I am sure we will find that the old signs are the only homes to the Staten Island Bridge Fungus once the environmental impact studies are complete.

In New Orleans there is a street called Weurple Street, or maybe Weurpel Street. There is at least one intersection where the street sign is spelled one way, and the street name on the corner in inlaid tiles is spelled the other way. My advice is to stop worrying about it.

And how about "Neandertal"? Just in case the Republican Party survives...


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