Pronounced Kiribas, and no, I cannot explain why, but like you I presume that it has something to do with Polynesian spelling versus English spelling, in the same way that Paris is pronounced Paree and Gaberone Habarone and… ok I lied, but this is strictly for the Sheldon Coopers of the world. It used to be called the Gilbert Islands, after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert, though the real name is Tungaru; but Kiribati is as near as you can get phonetically to Gilbert in the native language, and so they decided to go with Kiribas. Is that now even more unclear?! Are you wishing you hadn't asked?!
By whatever logic or linguistics, it is the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati, a title which makes its point in bold and underlined. No, it says, unlike most Pacific atolls, we are not French; nor are we American like Hawaii (the Americans renounced their claims in 1983); and the British are gone. We are self-determining. We are ourselves. We are grown up and mature enough not to need interfering busybodies to come and tell us how to live our lives, and rape our resources let alone our women, and impose their culture and their religion upon us. We are Kiribati.
The trouble is, they are rather too many Kiribati, and a policy of resettling populations from the over-crowded to the under-inhabited regions has been in place for a decade and more; strangely it aroused less controversy than the decision to move the international date line eastwards, so that the whole country could have the same clock, and even better the islands could be the first place in the world to enter the third millennium, which was wonderful for tourism; Caroline Island even found itself renamed Millennium Island, as this was the very first place to achieve that incredible human moment of randomness, chance, arbitrariness and disinterest after about the first twenty seconds.
But still a great distraction from the plummeting value of coconuts on the world market, which has forced the government to buy land in Fiji, where farming is better, but even more importantly it is further above sea level than most of Kiribati, which will be among the first to welcome that other millennium, the one in which global warming is indifferent to time zones.
Marks for: 3
Marks against: 3
You can find David Prashker at:
Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press