What’s in a Name?

July 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v5-7-My VoiceThe unwritten Bay Islands law says that “if you can buy it, you can name it.” Since just about everything in the Bay Islands is for sale, plenty of people take advantage of this rule.

When Carnival Cruise Lines announced that its “experienced marketing company” decided that Mahogany Bay is a better name for Dixon Cove I was faced with a dilemma. I was finishing a map of Roatan and had to decide: face the future and name Dixon Cove- Mahogany Bay, or stay with the tradition and keep it as it has been for at least a couple hundred years?

Dixon’s Cove has already been marked as such on the 1775 map “Ruatan Map” surveyed by Lieutenant Henry Barnsley, the Cartographer to the King of England. While Ruatan became Roatan, just a few cays and bight names survived the 232 years and even Dixon Cove was in danger of losing its identity to a Central American hardwood. Coincidences rule the world and marketing companies love predictability. You can predict that people will just love ‘Mahogany,’ but could they ever fall in love with ‘Dixon?’

The name changing phenomena isn’t exclusive to XX and XXI century. If fact, marketing has determined what Bay Islands should call themselves for as long as people have lived here. Different people- different names. Even the spelling Cay vs. Kay was an issue as most of dropped C for a K as the English left and the US stepped in. In all that change and chaos what is perhaps most amazing is that some places manage to retain their names through several centuries. (E.g. Anthony’s Key).

For Marketing executives Arch Cay certainly doesn’t sound as attractive as Fantasy Island and they surely love you if you make their life easier. Marketing fantasy and not arches, bare feet and not burials, is just so much easier.

Some name changes are just bound for failure. When attempts were made to rename Coxen Hole- Roatan City the christening never took off. But stay tuned. Marketing ‘a hole’ might prove too much for Royal Caribbean Corporation and their nearby cruise ship terminal. Its marketing department might just decide that in the name of getting an extra 5,000 shore excursions a year, it would help to rename the island capital a more inspiring, ‘Buccaneerville.’

And what did I do as far as Dixon Cove? I decided to keep the community of Dixon Cove on the map and substitute the Cove’s aquatic name to Mahogany Bay, a truly Solomonian decision. While I think that change is good, let’s not forget the roots or the context of the places we live in. [/private]

Substituted, but not Forgotten Island Names

Coxen Hole – Roatan City – Calkett’s Hole
Brick Bay – Brig Bay
Saint Helen – Helena Island
Mangrove Bight – Cohoun Bight
Gibson Bight – Turtling Bight
Brig Bay – English Harbour
Jonesville Harbour – Falmouth Harbour
Bodden Bight – Welshe’s Lagoon
Coral Cay – Green Cay
Barefoot Cay – Burial Cay
Fantasy Island – Ezekiel Cay – Threlfall Island
Osgood Cay – Big Cay – Bennet’s Island
Arch Cay – Big Cay
Stamp Cay – Poinsetts Island
Stamp Cay- Half Moon Cay
Connors Cay – Flevells Kay
Ross Cay – Little Helena

  • Cay, or kay – a small, low island consisting mostly of sand, or coral
  • Cove – most often a circular, or round inlet with a narrow entrance. Colloquially, cove can describe any sheltered bay.
  • Bay – An area of water bordered by land on three sides
  • Bight – A large and often only slightly receding bay, shallower than a sound

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