Coney Island
Posted: 28 August 2007 12:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From “The Stolen Village - Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates” by Des Ekin:

Anthony Jansen Van Salee warrants a special place in New York history as the first man to settle in Brooklyn; it is also probable that the original name of Coney Island (’Turk’s Island’) referred to him.

Anthony Jansen Van Salee was the son of an Algerian mother and a Flemish privateer who sacked the Irish town of Baltimore and sold over 100 captured Irish men, women and children into slavery in Algeria.

All the references I’ve found say Coney Island was named after a Dutch word for rabbits konjin(as in English coney and Latin cuniculus, a small rabbit), and evolved into Conyne, but was it at any time known as Turk’s Island?

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Posted: 28 August 2007 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Picking nits and dotting i’s: you mean konijn of course.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 02:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Eliza, does your source explain how “Coney” means “Turk’s”; I’d be interested to know.  I had always thought it was from English “coney”, but on the other hand, perhaps there weren’t any rabbits there when the Dutch first settled.

Looking up “rabbit” in Etymonline gave me this interesting fact on US rabbits:

1398, “young of the cony,” from Fr. dialect (cf. Walloon robète), dim. of Flem. or M.Du. robbe “rabbit,” of unknown origin. The adult was a cony (q.v.) until 18c.

“Zoologically speaking, there are no native rabbits in the United States; they are all hares. But the early colonists, for some unknown reason, dropped the word hare out of their vocabulary, and it is rarely heard in American speech to this day. When it appears it is almost always applied to the so-called Belgian hare, which, curiously enough, is not a hare at all, but a true rabbit.” [H.L. Mencken]

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Posted: 28 August 2007 03:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Wikipedia has a very thorough entry on the name.

The Dutch name for the island was Conyne Eylandt,[1] or Konijn Eiland (Rabbit Island) using modern Dutch spelling. This name is found on the New Netherland map of 1639 by Johannes Vingboon. (New York State and New York City were originally Dutch Settlements, referred to as New Netherland and New Amsterdam respectively.). As with other Long Island barrier islands, Coney Island was virtually overrun with rabbits, and rabbit hunting was common until the resorts were developed and most open space eliminated. It is generally accepted by scholars [2][3] that Coney Island is the English adaptation of the Dutch name, Konijn Eiland.

It does go on to mention other theories, taking in cone-shaped hills, Irish islands, Indian tribes and English explorers. No mention of the Turk’s Island theory.

Personally I think it’s game, set and match to the rabbits.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I took the excerpt to mean that the original name of what is now known as Coney Island was Turk’s Island and not that there is any meaning of “Coney” that would be connected with Turks.  Rereading Eliza’s post I don’t see any suggestion in there that there is supposed to be any connection between coneys and Turks.

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 03:26 AM by Faldage ]
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Posted: 28 August 2007 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Indeed, no connection between “coney” and “Turk.” The reference is to Van Salee being Algerian, which in the 17th century would have been synonymous with “Turk.” The Ottomans ruled all of North Africa at the time and one sense of the word “Turk” in use at the time meant any Muslim.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Wiki has a whole raft of ideas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coney

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Posted: 28 August 2007 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks for the correction, Dutchtoo, and for the links, but I was really interested to know whether Coney Island was ever known as Turk’s Island.  (I added the etymology of Coney to discourage discussion about it, rather than to suggest that there was any etymological connection between Turk’s and Coney.  I hoped that was clear, but apparently not so).

A further google brought up this site which says that the name of the first Algerian/Flemish man to occupy Coney Island was Anthony Van Salee, an the ancestor of various well-known Americans, including Humphrey Bogart and Jackie Kennedy Onassis (which I’ve read elsewhere, too):

As a result of the anti-social behaviour of his white wife, Anthony van Salee was induced to leave the city precincts of lower Manhattan and move across the river, thus becoming the first settler of Brooklyn. Since Coney Island abutted his property, it was, until sometime in the last century, also referred to as “Turk’s Island”; the word, “Turk”, being a designation of his which the records used interchangeably with, “mulatto”. According to the documentation that people like Professor Leo Hershkowitz of Queens University have sifted through, it would seem that Anthony van Salee never converted to Christianity.

So although I’m not sure exactly which “Turk” had the place named after him, it appears that Coney Island was at one stage called Turk’s Island, and that name came from the son of a Flemish father and an Algerian mother.  I’m interested to read any more about the name Turk’s Island that someone else can find.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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the word, “Turk”, being a designation of his which the records used interchangeably with, “mulatto”.

I would differ with this. I think the author is confusing two different terms, which are being applied to the same person. Mulatto would be a person of mixed black and white parentage. Today we wouldn’t normally consider Algerian/Arab parentage to be “black,” but such distinctions were not drawn in the 17th century, especially if the person in question had dark skin.

But Turk would refer to a Muslim. It’s a different word that is not interchangeable with mulatto, although in this case both words could be applied to Anthony Van Salee.

I wonder if the term Moor appears in the records to describe Van Salee. A Moor is a person of mixed Arab-Berber descent from what is now Algeria and Morocco. The term is especially applied to those with darker skin, but not exclusively so.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 12:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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As with other Long Island barrier islands, Coney Island was virtually overrun with rabbits, and rabbit hunting was common until the resorts were developed and most open space eliminated.

Sorry for being dim with reference to the “Turk’s/Coney” connection or lack of it. 

The above quote suggests that the rabbits on Coney island really were rabbits and not hares, or perhaps “virtually overrun” is an exaggeration.  Would the Dutch settlers have really called an island full of hares, “Rabbit Island” or don’t they have hares in the Netherlands?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 01:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Sure. A hare is called ‘haas’ here. If the creatures were recognized for what they were, the island should have been called ‘hazeneiland’. I don’t know what it was like back then, but hares are just as common as rabbits are, so you would expect people to be able to tell one from the other.

Come to think of it: ‘konijn eiland’ grates a bit. ‘Konijneneiland’ would be more obvious. Such words are usually formed with a plural form (cf. zwanenmeer, robbeneiland, etc.). Was it found in writing as such?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I think that terms like “Turk” and “Moor” have often been applied with much less discrimination than Dave uses. In South America, emigrants from the (former) Turkish empire (and their descendants) were often referred to indiscriminately as “Turcos”, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, and whether their skins were light or dark, and whether they came from Turkey, Palestine, or North Africa. In the same way, the Spanish conquerors of the Philippine Islands referred to part of the local population, at least, as “Moros”, whereas the only thing they might have in common with North African Moors would be their religion. English-speaking people have not, I think, been much more precise: they were quite happy to call American autochthones “Indians”, with little regard for geography.

It’s a long time since I read “Othello”. Shakespeare calls Othello “The Moor of Venice”; I don’t recall if the text of the play gives a clue as to Shakespeare’s reason for doing this.

Or consider the “black-a-moor” whom the Inky Boys mock in “Struwwelpeter” *. He’s called “Mohr” in German, but in Hoffmann’s illustrations he is depicted as quite distinctly negroid, not Moorish at all.

I would say, on the evidence, that lots of people in Van Sallee’s time might have felt comfortable calling him “Turk”, regardless of his geographical or ethnic origin, his religion, or his skin colour.

* O happy day! I found this timeless masterpiece on the Web, complete with the original illustrations (thanks, ElizaD, for laying the trail).

http://www.fln.vcu.edu/struwwel/twpete.html

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Posted: 29 August 2007 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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This Wikipedia article gives more details. The linked map (undated but according to the wiki page, it is from 1685) gives ‘Conyne Eylant’ as spelling.

The article also has some details about our friend Anthony. It confirms that the name ‘Coney Island’ was given in the 19th century, but that would not coincide with the information from the map. Unless it was first Conyne Eylant then Turk’s Island and finally Coney Island. It also says that his alternative nickname was ‘Mulat’.

The article furthermore says that he got the nick name as a reference to his father who was a Dutch pirate, Jan Janse van Haerlem-Salee, active in the Mediterranean who was converted to the Islam and married a Moorish wife.

[ Edited: 29 August 2007 05:28 AM by Dutchtoo ]
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Posted: 29 August 2007 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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the word, “Turk”, being a designation of his which the records used interchangeably with, “mulatto”

I read that not as meaning that the words as such are equivalent, which obviously they are not, but that contemporaries writing about him used those designations as alternative ways of describing him, without any special emphasis or shade of meaning being intended by choosing one over the other.  I’d venture to say that at the time both were equally derogatory in the mouths of English-speakers.
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