There are no Karakters at Karakters. The sun sets at Sunsets, but no one watches or instagrams a photo of them holding it in the palm of their hand. No airplanes land so there is no blasting of sunburnt drunks with jetwash, because no one is standing there being dutifully idiotic.
The island of St. Maarten/Martin has officially been closed, evacuated, and wrapped in police tape, all due to a disease that the United Nations has officially declared ‘Unpronounceable’, its most serious category for a disease and a grade of severity above even the “Extremely Ominous Sounding” designation recently assigned to Ebola.
The disease, known locally as ‘Ch..uh..chigy..uh..chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, choo-choo’, has undergone an alarming acceleration since the first cases appeared in late 2013. The mosquito-borne illness was first noted on the French side in a place with a French-sounding name, late on a Saturday night. From there it spread at the pace of a drunken crawl, arriving on the Dutch side by sunrise the next morning, broke. hungry, and looking for love in all the wrong places.
“Initially we weren’t especially worried.” Says Debbie Chichichester, “We were sure that eventually the population would get the message and begin saying the name correctly. Sadly this hasn’t happened. As we proceeded into the winter season of 2014, the regular influx of tourists unused to using four syllables in one word led to wholesale confusion and panic. On Dec. 7th we held an emergency session of both the French and Dutch side authorities, and agreed that the only way to get ahead of this rapidly spreading tongue-twister was to close the island.”
Residents and tourists who did not suffer life-ending strokes attempting to say the disease’s name have been evacuated to nearby Saba (Say-Bah), chosen for its simple pronunciation. Sadly, early reports indicate that some victims are struggling even with these four letters, and when referring to their place of refuge make it sound as though they have found haven in an early 90’s reggae star (Sha-Bah).
An emergency team of speech-therapists has been assembled and are expected in the area within 2-3 days, but the outlook for reopening the popular destination spot remains uncertain.
“This is the worse case of contagious mispronunciation the world has ever seen. The spread is rapid, and the effects of the disease truly horrific. In many cases victims are reduced in a matter of seconds to making repetitive “ch, ch, ch” sounds while spitting on each other. It is horrific, and weirdly hilarious. I mean it isn’t that hard to say. It’s simply called “Chi-kun, chikun, ch, charlie, chaka, chaka kahn, arrrrgh….”