This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Kiribati: a rant.

My husband came down to dinner the other day with the exciting news that according to the quizmaster on Pointless the name of the Pacific island group of Kiribati is pronounced kirribash.

Here's Kiribati's very beautiful flag:

Flag of Kiribati

Well, that means I've been pronouncing Kiribati wrong all my life, but, hey, the ti in attention is pronounced sh, after all.

Just to be certain (the speakers on our flat-screen TV aren't very good) I looked up Kiribati on Wikipedia. 

The first pronunciation Wikipedia gives is kiribess and the second kiribartee

Does this mean I can carry on with saying kiribartee without people sniffing contemptuously and pulling their skirts aside whenever I enter a room?

Well, I consulted a third authority, my trusty Collins dictionary. And what did I find?

A choice between kiribass and kiribattee.

So what could I do? Use the original name of The Gilbert Islands and risk being thought colonialist?

No, I decided to consult a real expert.

The Kiribati Government website offers no opinion, but, ah, the tourist board says you pronounce the name kiribas, so that must be right.

Kiribas... you say that kiribaz? Kiribass? Kiribars? Kiribarss?



Word Probably Not To Use Today: Kiribati. This word is the Gilbertese pronunciation of Gilberts. The name was adopted at independence.


  1. Merry Christmas,
    Very nice and informative post. Please keep it up. If you want to read Christmas Message For Parents you have to see the link
    Thank you,

  2. Hi,
    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me as much as this particular one.Happy New Year Greetings I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.

    1. Sorry you were disappointed, Tamir. The post was intended to be lighthearted, while giving an example of the serious problem that English orthography is eccentric and sometimes unpredictable. And, to be fair, I did seriously try to discover the answer to my question! Hope you have a very happy New Year!

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