Quays are properly pronounced “keys”. Less properly, but more popularly, speakers go with “cays”. This distinction may seem trivial, and of little consequence, but in can carry profound implications.

Let’s create a setting: the Caribbean island of Antigua. It’s capital, St. John’s. Redcliffe Quay, a wharf that groans under the strain of constant waves of cruise tourists. Now, suppose an Irish visitor, while strolling among the jewelry shops bespeckling the Quay, falls ill. Better yet, he was ill to start with, and then falls after tripping on a carelessly laid extension cord. Now he’s compounded his misery. More troubling for Robbie is that his travel companion, an equally Irish lady, is at this moment staring in awe at St. John’s Cathedral, a good six blocks up the hill and away from the harbor. Lucky for Robbie, his wife has a functioning cell phone. (And lucky for this entry, which really needs to get to the point). The store clerk gets her on the phone. She abandons plans to light an altar candle and scampers down the steps of the cathedral, into a taxi. She cries “take me to the quay!”, though uses the incorrect pronunciation. As a result, the cab delivers her to Kay’s, a food mart two miles from her husband. Robbie has to soak in misery alone, sporting a new bruise on each knee and a sore left wrist. He forgoes any purchase of jewelry. He sits on a bench outside of the shop, clutching his stomach and rubbing his knees for 45 minutes before his wife finally appears. An argument ensues. Neither tourist recalls St. John’s fondly.

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