Kinja was the name of the island when it was British. Now the name on the maps and in the Caribbean guidebooks is Amerigo, but everybody who lives there still calls it Kinja … The new name is used mainly on official stationery and in the school classrooms. There the pupils docilely scrawl themes and recite facts about Amerigo, but in streets and playgrounds they call the place Kinja, and themselves Kinjans. All through the Caribbean they still say of a native of this island, “He fum Kinja.”
Thus begins the classic novel “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk, the pages of which the Hon. McKeeva Bush, Leader of the Opposition, might want to turn as he contemplates renaming the “Swamp” (presumably it will be rebranded as “Caribbean Gardens”).
Readers will recall it was also Mr. Bush who proposed, to the applause of nearly no one, changing the name of Cayman’s most popular national festival, “Pirates Week,” to the “Cultural Festival.” Five years later, it’s still Pirates Week.
In fairness to Mr. Bush, he’s not the first to try “rebranding” to appease one group or another. Remember Kentucky Fried Chicken’s morphing itself clumsily into “KFC” once fried foods went out of fashion. Of course, it fooled no one then, or since.
And then there’s the issue of the recently opened “Shetty Hospital” in East End. It began life as Narayana [Hrudayalaya] Cayman University Medical Centre (named after Dr. Devi Shetty’s hospital complex in Bangalore, India).
No one, certainly not headline writers, could remember the proper name, much less how to pronounce it or spell it. It made no difference. Cayman residents (difficult nomenclatural cats to herd) called it, still call it, and probably always will call it “Shetty Hospital.”
(For our readers interested in etymology, we can report that after Ascension Health became a partner in the project, its CEO, Dr. Anthony Tersigni, came up with the name “Health City Cayman Islands.” At a lunch at a local restaurant, Dr. Shetty agreed in just seconds, and the sign makers and logo creators went to work.)
We at the Compass do not pretend that any of the above constitutes a major issue. As Shakespeare reminded us in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
To us, frankly, the “Swamp” smells sweet enough – or at least not as bland and brochure-ish as “Caribbean Gardens.”
As a culture, we might be losing just the smallest scintilla of ourselves if we let marketers, sloganeers, pollsters or politicians rename things for the sake of political correctness or euphemistic propriety. (They’re still trying to get us to refer to the dump as a “waste management facility.”)
Every culture has its own dialectic, idiomatic and linguistic localisms. They are part of our identity: Those who know, know, and if that separates us from our tourists, conventioneers or newcomers, well, so be it.
To us in Cayman, we refer to many of our locations colloquially and are still on a first-name basis with nearly all of our leaders: McKeeva, Kurt, Ezzard, Arden, Alden, Franz, Benson, Truman …
We like that. It brings to mind the theme song from the television show “Cheers”:
Be glad, there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name and they’re
always glad you came.
You want to go where people know, people are
all the same.
You want to go where everybody knows your name.