‘Ree-balt’ or ‘Ree-beau’?: What’s the right way to pronounce the north Jacksonville high school?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s an age-old question in the River City: Is it pronounced “Ree-balt” or “Ree-beau?”

It’s a prominent name in Jacksonville with a high school, a river as well as a monument.

The News4JAX I-TEAM worked all day Thursday to get to the bottom of the mystery which is even up for debate in our newsroom. Some said the “Ree-balt” pronunciation is part of the local dialect. Others argue we should stick with the French pronunciation.

On Wednesday, seniors at a north Jacksonville high school graduated with bravado, but from where? It depends on who you ask.

POLL: Select the way you pronounce Ribault in the poll below

News4JAX called the school and someone answered for “Ree-balt.” But a school district spokeswoman said the principal is adamant it’s “Ree-beau.”

To get answers, News4JAX went on a mission and brought in some help, hoping some local park rangers at the Timucuan Preserve could help put the debate to rest.

The park rangers News4JAX spoke to both agreed it’s pronounced: “Ree-beau.”

“Okay, we could get a little bit better on our French, but we try,” one ranger said.

The story traces back 461 years.

Jean Ribault was a French explorer who first landed in the St. Johns River in 1562 to start a colony. There’s a monument at the highest point in Jacksonville. It’s in East Arlington with a whopping 65-foot elevation.

Ribault and his men would later establish Fort Caroline near the native Timucuan tribe.

Then the Spanish came.

“St. Augustine is the longest last longest lasting continually inhabited European segment, right? All those adjectives, that wouldn’t matter without Fort Caroline. Fort Caroline is why the Spanish came over. Fort Caroline is why St. Augustine exists today,” said ranger Luke Kasbarian with the National Park Service.

And there was a lot of bloodshed.

“Well, the Spanish butchered the French down at Fort Matanzas, and so they still butcher the name today. That’s why they don’t call it ‘Ree-beau’ they call it ‘Ree-bault,’ right?” Kasbarian said.

And for many, the “Ree-balt” name stuck.

So there’s your history lesson, and it sounds like the final answer is “Ree-beau.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.