Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Place-Names in Wales

Does it not seem strange to you that when you enter Wales you find place-names displayed in two languages? Perhaps not, as we know that Welsh is the language of Wales , and we may also know that Welsh is the oldest language of literature in Europe .

Nevertheless, the fact that the place-names are 'translated' on the signs is rather strange, at least to me. In no other country of Europe do I know of it. So why is it thus? Possibly because it is thought that the Welsh names may be unpronounceable to foreigners, who are not aware of the phonetics of the language? The English version of the name is not so much a 'translation' as a corruption of the original.

You can imagine a visitor to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll'llandysiliogogogoch giving up in despair, though they all call it Llanfair P.G. these days. Many of these place-names are corrupted versions of the original, such as Llandovery (Llan ym ddyfri) or Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin). Even Cardiff does not escape notice, as it is originally Caer ar Daf or city/fort on the river Taf. Swansea is an exception as it was named by the Norse invaders, as well as the island of Skokholm , but its Welsh name is Abertawe. Possibly the worst example is the town of Llantwit Major. Llan in Welsh means church, and the churches were named after Celtic saints, but one could never contemplate there ever being a "St. Twit". I believe that St Athan's is actually named after St Tathan, or Tathan Sant.

So let us bring some sanity into the naming of places in Wales . There needs to be an examination of nomenclature of Welsh towns and cities, and a decision taken on correct and authentic naming. Inevitably, names such as Burry Port will be dropped for Porth Tywyn, Pembrey for Penbre, Kidwelly for Cydweli and so on. And if tourists and others choose to visit this land of mystery and enchantment they can learn to pronounce our corrected names correctly.

11 comments:

johnny foreigner said...

Alan says.....

"And if tourists and others choose to visit this land of mystery and enchantment they can learn to pronounce our corrected names correctly."

johnny says.....

....and if they don't like it, they can keep out and go and spend their money elsewhere.

'We'll keep a welcome in the hillsides......'

Some welcome indeed.

Your polarized pal.

johnny.

alanindyfed said...

It is simply a question of respect.
Pronouncing names correctly is to show respect to the country in which one is a guest.
How do you pronounce "Marseilles"?
or "Quimper"?

johnny foreigner said...

....and like I said...

...if they don't like it, they can keep out and spend their money elsewhere.

In my worldly travels I found that my stumbling attempts at the pronunciation of 'foreign' words have never brought criticism or accusations of disrespect.

Are visitors to Wales to be subject to linguistic examination prior to entry?

Oh, and BTW, respect must be earned Alan, and respect for your opinions and proposals is haemorrhaging at a rate of knots.

Your proactive pal.

johnny.

alanindyfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alanindyfed said...

JF, stumbling attempts are not good enough. You will earn respect by pronouncing names correctly, not my mangling the spellings and turning a "Llanbedr" into a "Lampeter".
One should earn the right to be a guest, not trample over the daffodils!

johnny foreigner said...

Alan says....

One should earn the right to be a guest, not trample over the daffodils!

johnny says....

I'm not a guest Alan, I'm a native, unlike your good self. Do I have to earn any rights? or may I continue to use the language that the vast majority of we natives use and wish to continue to use?

Your proximate pal.

johnny.

alanindyfed said...

JF - I well know you are Welsh as you keep reminding me, and you are welcome to speak the majority language which is your right. If you say I am not a native let's compare DNA and you will be mistaken. In any case, as I said in my blog it is a matter of allegiance, and you know where mine lies. ;)

johnny foreigner said...

By your own admission, you are English by birth, and, of your own choice, give your allegiance to Wales.

If I were English, would I be correct in describing you as an apostate or a proselytizer? Have you forsaken the land of your birth? Do you not have any principled loyalty to your birthplace?

Do the nationalists refer to you as an 'incomer' or 'immigrant'?

Would they be correct to describe you so?

Whilst I accept that your choice of allegiance is your own affair, it's a bit rich for an incomer like you to seek to impose your wishes on me, a native.

On the matter of DNA, I think that you will find that you and I are descended originally from black Africans, or would you not wish to go back quite so far, or so dark?

Me? I'm proud of my African Heritage.

Your prosopographically pale but proudly pan-African pal.

johnny.

alanindyfed said...

What a load of Sbwriel !

johnny foreigner said...

You wrote it Al.

Do you deny your African heritage?

If so, which planet are you from?

Your prismatic pal.

johnny.

alanindyfed said...

Probably not yours!