CaRIBbean vs CaribBEan

You say “po-TAY-toe”…

The other day, I heard someone refer to the movie “Pirates of the CaRIBbean.”

“You mean, Pirates of the CaribBEEan?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Only, that’s not what he said. Does it matter? Probably not. Either way, they were great movies, it’s just about the best part of Disneyland/Disney World, and whichever way you say it, people understand.

But still, it is Pirates of the CariBEEan. Just ask Billy Ocean and his CariBEEan Queen.

I say “po-TAH-toe”

On the other hand, you can set sail with Royal CaRIBbean, or sing along with Kermit and the CaRIBbean AmPHIBian.

Okay, what the heck is up with this word? Is it Ca-RIB-be-ahn or Care-ib-BEE-ahn? Both are acknowledged as correct pronunciations, though many claim your preferred pronunciation will mark you as either an American or, as my British friend says, “a civilized gent.”

And then there were three.

Naturally, that makes me wonder how people who live there pronounce it. According to a well-versed acquaintance, the answer may be none of the above. Her explanation is that they are people of Carib descent (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, as KARib), therefor they are CARibbean. But, she admits, CaRIBbean is common, and points out that the difference she hears is in the first syllable: Ca-ribbean versus Care-ibbean. (Somehow, this made much more sense in her Caribbean accent than it does when typed out in a blog.)

One Rule to Rule them All

Just when I think I have narrowed it down to one rule, someone says it differently and blows the whole deal. I began to think pronunciation depends on usage: When it’s a proper noun, it is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, as in Royal Caribbean. When used as an adjective, a la Caribbean Queen, the emphasis is on the third syllable.

Of course, rules are made to be broken, and every iteration of this rule was quickly broken. That’s when it occurred to me: There is no rule; there is no wrong way. If it sounds right to you, it’s right. Unless you’re saying Pirates of the CaRIBbean. Savvy?

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

6 comments on “CaRIBbean vs CaribBEan

    • Hi Grace! Heck, English is my native language, and I’m confused quite often! What I think is funny is how one person might pronounce some words in different ways depending on the context, just like this one.

    • Hi Brittany – I don’t think there’s a real rule, I’m just one of those order vs chaos people who likes order. But it seems like language, of course, is complete chaos! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Ha! I’m sure I sound a bit silly quite often. Another one for me in the US is Kissimmee, Florida. I always thought it was KISSimmee, but I’ve also heard kisIMMee. I wonder if one is more “right” than the other?

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