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One correct way to pronounce Caribbean

By Rene A. Henry

SEATTLE, USA – Residents of the Caribbean should be upset when US broadcasters and tourists mispronounce the name of their region. It is derived from its first inhabitants, the Carib Indians, and correctly pronounced CARE-ib-bee-an.

One reason many broadcasters mispronounce Caribbean is the Associated Press Broadcast Handbook lists its pronunciation phonetically as KUH-RIB’BEE-UHN. Too bad its editors never went to Disney Land or DisneyWorld. Disney got it right with its ride “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The Internet has a score of articles on this pronunciation issue and while there are slight phonetic differences, most articles put the emphasis on CARE-ib and not kuhRIB. And there are no kuh-RIB Indians or their relatives anywhere to be found.

From 2003-2006 I was vice president-public relations for a diversified media and telecom company headquartered in Christiansted, St Croix, US Virgin Islands that had operations throughout the Caribbean. When I first visited the islands I quickly learned the correct way to pronounce Caribbean.

For more than a year I have sought help from the Associated Press to correct their entry in their Broadcast Handbook or at least list the preferred choice of the islanders. I first wrote AP’s Broadcast Division and when no one responded I sent a letter with attachments to Gary Pruitt, then AP’s president and CEO. He also did not acknowledge two letters. I wrote his successor Daisy Veerasngham seeking her help and she also has ignored two letters. I have lost respect for what I have always considered a great news agency for not taking the responsibility to publish a correction or even discuss this issue.

US broadcasters make mistakes every day. I am tired of hearing anchors and reporters talk about a new record when a record is a record – is a record. And many call and event a first annual when it is not until the event has been held a second time. During the Cannes film festival, I hear announcers mispronounce this Mediterranean city as Caen, a prominent city in Normandy. These are areas that should be included in AP’s handbook.

There are preferred ways of pronouncing tomato and potato and both are correct: toe-may-toe or tuh-mah-toe and poe-tay-toe or puh-tah-toe. There is only the correct way to pronounce Carib Indians and the Caribbean.



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