The Cannibals of the Caribbean

Carib family

Have you ever forgotten whether there are two Rs or two Bs in Caribbean?

Well it’s about to get harder. You see, Caribbean (which has two Bs) comes from exactly the same root as cannibal (which has one).

Carib was the 16th century word used to describe an indigenous tribe of the West Indies with whom Christopher Colombus came into contact. Carib actually comes from the Carib word karibna, which means people.

It conjures up rather a nice image of conquistadors arriving on the sands and asking “Who are you?” only to be told “We’re people [karibna].”

The Caribs apparently had a habit of eating parts of their opponents’ bodies after battle. Ostensibly, that was to consume the warrior virtues of the defeated (although that seems rather illogical to Ety, if you’re used to the idea of survival of the fittest).

So Europeans got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the Caribs’ preferred meal was human flesh.

So the Caribs came to give their name not only to the azzure waters around their islands but also to the practice of people eating people.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why Ety is thinking about cannibalism, it’s because of news that a study into a large burial site in Germany shows signs of possibly mass cannibalism.


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