by Kevin Walsh

I have been going through a batch of photos from southern Staten Island I took in January 2020 I haven’t gotten around to using yet. Have you ever seen a name on a map and been mystified about how to pronounce it? “DeKalb” is pronounced with the L in Brooklyn and Illinois, but not in Georgia, for example. One name that has stumped me is Poillon Avenue, which runs from Annadale Road a few stops from its SIR station southeast to near the waterfront at Raritan Bay.

I can guess its original pronunciation was something like Pwa-YOHN, with a nasal “n” at the end, since the family name came from French Huguenot immigrant Jaques Pouillian, who was appointed a Richmond County justice in 1689 by Jacob Leisler. Over time the spelling changed, as it does for English names. But how do residents, decidedly non-French, pronounce Poillon these days? POI-lon maybe?

Seen here from Annadale Road, Poillon Avenue has residences on both sides, but for much of its run it plunges straight through Blue Heron Pond Park, which has six separate ponds, including two large ones, which are frequented by the blue herons of the park’s title. The ponds are part of a fairly large number of ponds in southern Staten Island in a series of reserves known as the Bluebelt. Others include Long Pond, Lemon Creek, Jack’s Pond, Kingfisher Pond and Wood Duck Pond.

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David+Meltzer September 9, 2021 - 11:40 am

Some of the Poillons , along with the Seguine, are buried in Blazing Star Cemetery on Arthur Kill Road.

Doug Douglass September 9, 2021 - 1:39 pm

Asking locals for a pronunciation may not yield the correct answer. Most New Yorkers think the Van Wyck Expressway is Van Wick. Despite the family contacting Radio and TV traffic services that the name is said as Van Wike. The same “yck” as in Wyckoff and Dyckman. Recorded station announcements in the Transit System also mispronounce the same.

therealguyfaux September 10, 2021 - 11:03 pm

The “Y” in those names is an Anglicization of “IJ” which is pronounced something like an “A” as spoken by an Australian (think: “G’day, mate!”). So “WYE-coff” and “DYE-kman” and “van WYKE” are closer to the Dutch pronunciation. Interestingly, the “Dyckman” spelling is an Anglicization of “Dijkmans,” which would account for the final “S” being dropped– the farmstead in Upper Manhattan being heard to English ears as “Dikeman’s Farm” resulted in the family themselves calling themselves “Dyckman” as opposed to introducing themselves as “the Dijkmanses.” The “Wyckoff” story is a bit different– it’s Friesian, and their dialect of Dutch would have a short “I” sound, but Standard Dutch has the “A by an Aussie” sound. The van Wyck name should actually be pronounced something like “Fon Vake,” i.e., a heavier “V” and an almost-but-not-quite “W” sound– think of a German who speaks fluent but slightly accented English pronouncing an English “W” word.

therealguyfaux September 9, 2021 - 7:04 pm

“Poillon” would be pronounced in Dutch pretty much the same as in English, only with something less of the diphthong “poy-ee” sound that Northerners would use and more “Southern-drawl”-y, like, but not exactly, “paw-lahn” Why I mention Dutch is that most French names got “Hollandized” by the time the Huguenots were in New York and Cape Town.by the late 17th C. settling in with the rest of the Dutch in Staaten Eylandt and Breukelen and in their own places like Nurra Shell (“Nieuw Rochelle”) as well..

Edward September 10, 2021 - 3:52 pm

This former denizen of Staten Island (and a direct descendant of French Huguenots whose family has been in the New York area, including SI, since the 1760s) would pronounce it “POY-YON” in the French manner. But I’m from the North Shore of SI, and my South Shore brethren may have a different take on it!

Roy Peet Poillon Cleveland Ohio December 6, 2021 - 11:55 am

Yes, Your are correct. My name is Roy Peet Poillon. My great grandfathers are Cornelius Poillon and Richard Poillon of C&R Poillon Ship Builders located at the Bridge Shipyard in Manhattan which they owned, around the mid to late 1800’s.

Peter September 10, 2021 - 6:53 pm

Newly hatched baby ducklings are a favorite food of blue herons.

Adrian Gomez September 12, 2021 - 10:43 am

The truly stupid resident would pronounce it SMITH with all of the letters being silent.

Stephen F Solosy September 13, 2021 - 12:19 pm

That sounds like an old George Carlin joke
My last name is “Janofski” spelled S,M,I,T,H,. Nevermind they’re all silent

Dave November 21, 2021 - 10:32 pm

I grew up in the area and it was always “Pool-yon”

Peter R Poillon December 1, 2021 - 5:18 am

I pronounce it pole-yon. The story goes that our grandparents were salesman. When leaving telephone messages, people would badly mis-spell the name when pronounced with the french “poi” sound. They gave up and started pronouncing the hard L. (My father was John Jacob Poillon IV.)


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