Posted by: southernbelizeexpertise | July 8, 2011

The most abused word…

on web sites in Belize is…. now, there are a number of contenders, but the outright winner has to be “pristine”  We have “pristine reefs”, “pristine beaches”, “pristine rainforest” and quite a number of other “pristine” thingies. Now the people who use the word either do not know its meaning or are simply abusing it.

The most common meanings are “In its original condition; unspoiled” or “clean and fresh as if new; spotless”. Chambers online thesaurus offers “1 IMMACULATE, undefiled, uncorrupted, untouched, virgin, unspoiled, unsullied  2 ORIGINAL, earliest, first, initial, former, primary, primitive, primal formal primeval, primordial.” You can say what you like about our beaches and cayes but they are certainly not in their original condition or unspoiled.

Plastic bottles and trash regularly wash up on the pristine beaches and cayes of Belize; some of this arrives labelled as originating in Guatemala and floats down the Rio Motagua and then out to sea. Some is dumped by cruise lines and other ships that have green policies on the wall of their office in Miami forbidding dumping.  It all has to be raked and removed. People generally look after the beaches in front of the homes, hotels and restaurants extremely well; not least since the raking breaks into the breeding cycle of sand flies.  It looks really beautiful after it has been raked and cleaned but it doesn’t look pristine.

Inland the pristine forests have been walked and exploited by man for aeons. Whether it is logging for mahogany, collecting the xate (pronounced shat-ay) palm which goes into flower arrangements or hunting the local wild animals for bush meat which offers free protein.  Every generation or so a passing hurricane will cut a swathe through the forests and primary forest may disappear literally overnight taking decades to fully recover. But recover it does…very quickly, so that after five or six years it can be be hard to tell what had happened.  It looks really beautiful but it isn’t pristine.

So let’s get rid of this word that has become a fairly meaningless cliche through no fault of its own and delve a little deeper into our dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?); there might be other adjectives out there in pristine condition so why not use them? “Really beautiful”, for example. No probably not.

Hurricane damage

Looking pristine after Hurricane Iris

Lodge at Big Falls before hurricane Iris

Before Hurricane Iris


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