It was a tweet, or rather a couple of tweets, from @Vaughan_Wms, a member of Plaid Cymru on Ynys Môn, which inspired my writing of this blog.
Doing my daily rounds of Twitter – daily rounds which happen usually ten or more times per day – I spotted the following tweet:
After liking and resharing the note, Vaughan then tweeted this:
It was a Manx-speaking Manxman, @ManxNige, who responded first to the above tweet with this thought-provoking addition:
“because English is the language of the Herrenvolk (a concept dripping in layers of irony…)”
It’s impossible to ignore the point(s) raised. It has always bothered me as to why English place-names are used in Wales – especially when the original Welsh is often so similar to the translation. Conwy < Conway, Caernarfon < Ca(e)rnarvon, Y Fflint < Flint. Baffling!
For years I’ve pondered the fantasy of a world that refers to this fair land solely as Cymru. I know of a few languages, Gaelic and Swedish spring to mind, where a variation on the word Cymreag is used to refer to the language (unfortunately too often) regarded as ‘Welsh’ – Cuimris and Kymriska respectively. However, Cymru seems but confined to within Offa’s ancient borders alone.
So anyway, a tweety discussion about anything whatsoever to do with my nation on Twitter? I simply had to get involved!
As aformentioned, I cannot help but dream of a world who refers to us as Cymru and to our people; Cymry. A sure-fire way of ensuring, through mere reference to our ancient language (and hence to our ancient peculiarities), that we exist and, in the words of Dafydd Iwan, are “yma o hyd” – here still. But as I say in the above tweet, the name Wales (from ‘Waelas’ in the not-so-ancient English tongue which laughingly means ‘stranger’ / ‘foreigner’), holds its own history and social reference. Despite its subtly blatant and utter English ignorance / arrogance, it reminds Welsh people that there’s something for which to fight. It’s good that we’re known as ‘Wales.’
We can ourselves learn so much from the fact that, for example, French speakers call us ‘Pays de Galles’ – the Nation of the Gauls (i.e. Celts). This subtle social history would be hidden were the French to attempt to add the word Cymru to their vocabulary. To the Irish we are ‘Breatain Bheag’ – Little Britain. To the Manx we are simply ‘Bretin.’ Esperanto speakers will often be heard muttering ‘Kimrio’ too. Hyfryd.
In the same way our Welsh exonyms can reveal so much about places outside of Wales. ‘[Caer]Efrog’ for York – the Fort of Eboracum. York refers to the Viking influence; Yorvik.
It does not, however, hold us back from using ‘Cymru’ in our own affairs. It often pains me to hear fans of football and rugby etc shouting ‘Wales’ from the stands at national sporting events. I feel it is an epitome of our demise and defeat as a nation. In addition to these foreign terrace-cries, our landscape is littered enough with Anglo-linguistic droppings upon our towns and villages but, despite English-language pressures galore with which to contend when simply referring to a place’s name, we have been successful in restoring many.
So many people on Twitter are swift to react simply with condemnation so to take the moral highground my final responce was something largely ignored by tweeters; a plan with which to move forward. There is a simple yet effective way that we, as both Welsh and English-speaking residents of this nation, can make a difference to the Welsh language on a visual nature:
Personally I only ever write addresses on anything from hand-written letters to online forms using Welsh names. I even try my best to write English adresses in Welsh when such Cambro versions exist – similar to the way I use Cornish, Manx, Gaelic and Irish when sending correspondence to their respective nations. When I check in on Facebook, Welsh is all I use. I’m often creating ‘new’ places on the social-media giant’s website (such as Efrog Newydd for my recent visit to New York).
Let’s leave those who wish to refer to us using English (and / or any language) to their own business but what’s stopping us from using our place-names?
We can force change. We can succeed in promoting our nation at the same time as promoting our language and culture. Let others secure their own versions of Wales in their own way whilst we who reside here promote our own, native ones.