a bit of obvious etymology that dawned on me about 20 years too late yesterday: Welsh’s word for Englishman, “Sais” (plural “saeson”), is very clearly rooted in the word “Saxon.”
The same is true for the Scots Gaelic “Sasannach,” and the Irish Gaelic “Sasanach.” (Apologies if either of these are slightly incorrect)
another tidbit about England, Dover's name is derived from the Brythonic word for water (in archaic welsh: "dwfr" or "dyfr").
While modern Welsh now uses dŵr for water, we still use the old term in our name for otters, "dyfrgi" (literally: water dog).
a bonus English/water related etymology fact that many of you have probably heard is that the English river Avon if derived from the word afon in Welsh, meaning river. So bilingually it is literally "the river river."
the English "avon" is pronounced ay-von, where as in Welsh afon is pronounced "ah-von."
here's a brief and rundown of other Welsh sounds and their pronounciations for english speakers:
ch: like the ch in the Scots "loch," slightly similar to but very distinct from the German ch sound.
dd: like the th in "the"
f: like the v in the "verse"
ff: sometimes like the ph in "physics," sometimes like the f in "forest."
ng: sort of like the ng in "song," but, like, different? starts with the n sound and then moves to the ng sound, like "n-ng." Used almost exclusively in mutations.
ll: no real point of comparison, needs its own post
rh: a rolled or trilled r sound. I've seen it described as saying h and r at the same time.
w: like the oo in "loop." note that this is a vowel in welsh.
So, ll. This has no equivalent at all in the English sound vocab, so I'm going to give you its IPA character: ɬ. Look it up if you're interested.
Lets look at the welsh word Llwyd (grey) and its two most common translations to see how the sound is substituted.
The english typically just replace the ll sound with an l sound, resulting in Llwyd turning in to the name Lloyd.
French scribes historically translated the ll sound as a fl sound, resulting in Llwyd turning in to the name Floyd.
ll exists in English speaking Wales depending on geography, proximity to Welsh speakers, and in some cases politics (English speaking Welsh nationalists tend to learn how to say ll).
But down here in Cardiff it's pretty simply split between languages.
If you speak Welsh? you make the ll sound in Welsh place names.
If you speak no welsh at all? you make the l sound in Welsh place names.
i have heard an anecdote from my partner that when one of their family was in university in the 80s/90s scotland, they had a teacher who insisted that ll was pronounced fl natively in welsh (so basically the french transcription).
This means that the Southern Welsh town of Llanelli would be pronounced as Flanefli, which is very funny but very distant from how we say it down here.
would like to end on two notes:
firstly, much of this is my intuition as a native bilingual speaker. I never learned pronunciation or grammer through English so my attempts to explain them in English will always be less technical and informed than learner's resources.
Secondly, if you're interested in learning Welsh and you have the spoons/time, I highly recommend it! it's a lovely language and a welcoming community, and I'm personally very happy to help/point you in the right direction :)
just heard about a book on welsh dialects that I desperately want to read so if that wins by a small margin I’ll likely choose the next most popular option so I can tackle dialects after I’ve read it. Also just a note to self but I want to tackle English loan words, bilingual wales, and Wenglish in the future.
alright, idioms and a few phrases! this is going to be a bit of a short one as I've been busy lately. There'll be an audio post at the end of this string of posts with me reading these out.
I'll present the phrase first, then a direct-ish translation in quotations, and then an equivalent phrase in brackets.
mae'n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn
"it's hitting (raining) old ladies and sticks"
("it's raining cats and dogs")
tri chynnig i Gymro
"give a Welshman three tries"
("third time's a charm")
nid aur yw popeth melyn
"all that's yellow is not gold"
("all that glitter is not gold")
a'i wynt yn ei ddwrn
"with his breath in his fist"
(to hurry, rooted in running so fast you run out of breath)
cael llond bol
"have a full stomach"
("had enough of," "had it up to here with")
rhoi'r ffidil yn y tô
"put the fiddle through the roof"
(to give up on something)
cyntaf i'r felin caiff falu
"first to the mill gets to grind"
("early bird gets the worm")
fi rown fy mhen i'w dorri
"i give/offer my head for breaking"
("I am certain of it," "I swear on it")
paid â chodi pais ar ôl piso
"don't raise your petticoat after you've pissed"
("don't cry over spilled milk")
(to chat nonsense)
cer i grafu
"go to scratch"
("go to hell," "fuck off")
@moonybun I let go of it for a long time because of some trauma and I’m so happy I’m ready to reimburse myself in speaking it regularly again now
@alex I want to try this but my mouth is absolutely not attuned to scottish sounds yet, so I say that like it’s a welsh place name. I have a Gaelic speaking welsh learner friend and they have the opposite problem, when they speak Welsh it sounds like gaelic lol
@katherine yes! On my last visit there I went & found the chapel he attended, among other places. He wanted his ashes scattered at Stradey Park (never happened, to my chagrin, & now of course it's gone)
@katherine cheers! I'm going to be studying Welsh and German at Abertawe uni soon so I'll let you know :)
@katherine I used to live next to an older couple, from north and south Wales. When the southern went to visit the northern's family, it was very difficult to understand one another! I was reminded of that by this poll, I chose the dialects option because I'm interested to hear what you have to say about it.
@pfx I'm excited to research it and report back! it's not like the dialects are mutually unintelligible but... I'd be lying if I said i didn't struggle to process the vocabulary and speed of the cofi
dialect, for example
@anarchiv ah that's really cool! it's always struck me as a pretty generic "i live in an agrarian society" sort of idiom, but I also wouldn't at all be surprised if it's cognate or borrowed
Do you happen to know if miller was considered a dishonorable profession in Wales like it was in medieval German realms?
@katherine catrin this is wonderful!!! thank you so much for taking the time to write and record this!
I have a question if I may: do you know anything about singular they or neopronouns in welsh? my googlings have suggested some people want to just use nhw for an equivalent to to singular they but I don't really know. and what's the standard for referring to a person when you don't know their gender?
@bryn so I've had this lately with myself too.
The jist of the situation as I understand it is this: from my interactions and observations on welsh twitter, nonbinary people speaking welsh are using nhw in the place of the English they at the moment. I'm not aware of any neopronouns, I would actually really love to get in to some welsh speaking trans spaces and see what people are doing but I don't really know anyone in person or online atm so that's out of the question.
@bryn using nhw doesn't make a perfect reflection of the english they/them because as you are probably aware, sentences warp around pronouns much more in welsh than they do in english and that includes the plural pronoun. I think, in the future, we might be looking at nonbinary neopronouns based off of the masc "e/ef/o/of" and the fem "hi," much in the same way that people have started building sets of neopronouns based on he/him, she/her, they/them.
@bryn I'm quite fond of singular nhw all told and might adopt it, as at the moment I'm using they/them in english but still hi in welsh. as far as I'm aware, nhw is also how you would refer to a single person of undetermined gender too, much like you'd do in English, but that is based off of the recesses of my semi rusty welsh, and I've def not consulted a writing style guide or learner's curriculum on the matter. really glad you enjoyed the posts friend!
@katherine I love this! And thank you for reading them out, it was nice to hear the pronunciations as well
@half_rat sadly i have very little experience with Gaelig/Gwyddelig which makes it hard to know when there are or aren't similarities :( i'm hoping to learn Scots Gaelic next year, hopefully when I move up there and get to spend time with my Gaelic speaking friends.
@katherine idioms in other languages always a fascinating peek into the culture, so that's my vote
But honestly it doesn't matter because it's all awesome
@bouncinglime i'm v v v excited to write it up!! and same, idioms are a really fascinating universal thing that everyone does different, it's lovely!
@katherine even though no one else wanted a geography field trip i still eagerly await the thread <3
@georgespolitzer you will get your geography field trip rico. it will even sadly be stopping off to the welsh tract in colonial america, and explaining those place names, though i personally find them to be very shameful.
@katherine i always heard it as being almost like the "th" sound combined "l" and not fully enunciated
so for instance "llanelli" sounds kinds of like "thlanethli" to me
i have no welsh at all though so that's just going from what i hear in my ears
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