Accents

I love checking in to St Lucia more than any other Caribbean island. The last time we did was over three years ago. Crazy how time flies! The source of my happiness? Lu’s passport. The immigration lady chuckled openly today when she saw it. Then she called her colleague, ‘Look at this! They’ve got a Lucia.’

St Lucian’s pronounce their island name softly of course, inserting the ‘sh’ sound for the ‘cia’ in Lulu’s name. When we named this kid, I was thinking of pronouncing it this way. In the end, I relented though and we used the more common, Lu-see-ya sounding version. To be honest, I could go with the Loo-sha sound now. Maybe it’s the way words roll off the tongue in this tropical heat, how the air affects your voice. It feels normal.

For their part, St Lucians have a different accent to neighbouring islands. I noticed when we were checking in. It seems stronger and more guttural. As a Caribbean newbie, I hadn’t noticed it last time we were here.

When you stop to consider it, the difference in accent compared to the Grenadines and Grenada might not be that surprising. After all, St Lucia was the island which changed hands more than a dozen times between the colonial French and the English. That has to count.

Why was St Lucia fought over with such intensity? Was it her girl’s name? Her two breast-like ancient volcano mountains, the Pitons? She was even traditionally called ‘Helen of the Caribbean’ – and it’s true; as an island, she is as beautiful as they come. Tropical beaches, hot water sulphur springs, mountain rainforest.

It seems it was all about position. The British headquarters were in Barbados, 120 miles away. The French stationed themselves in Martinique, only 50 miles away. In the middle was volcanic, fertile St Lucia.

So poor old St Lucia bore the fighting brunt. Her history is dizzying. Now she is an independent nation, and part of the Commonwealth. Her history remains. Her official language is English. Back up language is French Creole. Accent is a ground-up mix of the two.

The two officers in Rodney Bay’s immigration office were still grinning about Lulu’s name, even when everything was stamped and done.

‘Do you get many people called Lucia here?’ I asked, switching her name to the ‘sh’ sound. I might keep it this way too, I thought. Well, in all likelihood till we go home – and the air changes again.

They looked surprised. ‘No, we don’t. So, tell your girl she’s home now. It’s a pleasure to have her here.’

I sighed with happiness. See what I mean? For us, St Lucia is the best island to check into.

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