Posted June 27th, 2004, 11:56 PM
Apparently both are technically acceptable but on lovely Half Moon Cay it is most definitely pronounced "key".
I also pronounce "quay" as "key" though there are myriad different ways to pronounce that. The correct alternate pronounciation is, yes, "cay", like the way you would expect the island to be pronounced Lots of Americans say "kway" but that is not correct. I stick with the most common British version, "key" (how often do you have Americans using the word quay anyway?). In French it is spelled quai and pronounced roughly as "keh", like the first part of "KEttle".
As for whether "cay" and "quay" are the same, no, they're totally different. A cay is a small, low island. A quay is a place where one ties up a ship - it is a synonym for wharf; that is a dock which is parallel to the shoreline (whereas a pier is perpendicular to, or at least protrudes from the shore). Confusingly I have read that "quay" can also be spelled "key", just to muddy things further. At least there can't be any controversy over pronounciation when it's spelled that way