Wales – Aberdovey and the Welsh Language

Borth Mid Wales Rain

“Cenedl heb iaith, cenedi heb galon” – Welsh proverb (A nation without language is a nation without heart)

The following morning it was raining. Raining quite hard as it happened and this was much more like the Wales that I remembered from family holidays when I was a boy.

After breakfast it began to ease away and by nine o’clock I was able to leave the caravan and walk again to the seafront and take the cliff top walk once more to the war memorial and look out over the bay where things looked very different today as grey clouds filled the sky in all directions.

On the way back down I spoke to a man who was hoping for better weather because he was preparing to do some repairs and painting of his house and he told me how the properties are under continual assault from the weather and from the salt water and how much work that entails in keeping properties well maintained.  Back home I like to paint my house every fifteen years or so, whether it needs it or not, but here he explained it is an annual chore.

Aberdovey Wales

By mid morning there was some improvement so we left the caravan and headed north towards the seaside town of Aberdovey on the opposite side of the estuary. I always like to go to Aberdovey because it is one of my favourite places in Wales.

A perfect seaside town with a sandy beach, a busy harbour, brightly painted houses and a small public park.  Parents with children entertain themselves in the simple pursuit of crabbing because thankfully there are no amusement arcades, no tacky tourist trains and no furious fast food diners.

As we drove around the north shore of the estuary the weather started to change for the better and by the time we had found a parking spot and wandered off in the direction of the harbour the clouds were rapidly disappearing and the sun was beginning to shine.

Aberdovey Beach

After lunch at the Dovey Inn we spent some time in the charming streets away from the seafront and left and carried on to Towyn.  Towyn is the terminus of the Talyllyn railway, which is just about my favourite narrow gauge railway in Wales but I didn’t mention this to my travelling companion because I was certain that having turned down the opportunity to take the Vale of Rheidol Light Railway just the previous day he was almost certain not to have had a Saint Paul on the road to Damascus type moment overnight and suddenly been converted into a steam railway enthusiast.

Instead we went to the seafront and sat and in the sunshine were content to sit and watch the sea and the boats before going to a supermarket for some supplies.

Tal-y-Llyn Lake Wales

We had driven here along the coastal route so we choose now to return via the country so we headed inland towards the foothills of Cader Idris mountain range and Tal-y-lyn lake.  If I was choosing to move house and live in Wales then this is where I would select, I prefer it to the north and the south, the countryside is green and gentle, the lakes are blue and serene and it is not nearly so busy.

Place names are hard to pronounce of course because trying to understand the Welsh language is like trying to crawl through a hawthorn bush without getting lacerated and as I called out the names of the villages as we drove through them and each one I got horribly wrong.

Since devolution the Welsh language fanatics have become rather like the French with their opposition to anything Anglo-Saxon and they have gone to a lot of trouble to replace as many words as possible and when they can revert them to Welsh.

When there is no Welsh word they just make one up.  For example there is no Welsh word for microwave and (you will probably have to look this up because you won’t believe me) the word they made up is ‘popty-ping’. Almost as funny is the Welsh word for ironing which is smwddio, which is pronounced smoothio It’s true.  UCNMIP, which, as it happens,  is not a Welsh word but simply means You Could Not Make It Up! (nad oeddech yn gallu ei wneud yn i fyny).

The weather continued to improve through late afternoon and after pie supper cooked in the popty-ping I made way once more to the sea and the pebble beach to wait patiently for a sunset that was preparing for a show in the west and as the sun dipped slowly down I wasn’t disappointed.

Borth Sunset

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22 responses to “Wales – Aberdovey and the Welsh Language

  1. This made me smile…love that photo of the train on what looks like the bridge at Dolgoch (years since I’ve been there). I think the word Ambiwlans was another of the made-up variety….

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  2. A few years ago, I was speaking to Mr Cornish Language in his shop in St Just. He explained that the previous evening he and his colleagues on the Language Committee had been making up the Cornish words for the sixty species of butterfly in the British Isles. Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Skipper, Gatekeeper….they’d managed something for every one of them!

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  3. That’s interesting about the Welsh language, Andrew. When I lived there, the language was being repressed, so it’s great to hear that they’re making their own up!

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  4. Do you not realize that the ‘perfectly sensible English words’ you list are in fact borrowings from other languages? You must be either extremely ignorant or a big fan of irony. In that regard, English is merely mangled French. The proportion of borrowings in the Welsh language is significantly less than that of English.

    Beth am wneud peth ymchwil cyn chwydu rwtsh am yr iaith Gymraeg, yn enwedig a thithau’n ddi-Gymraeg, ac felly’n sengi ar ein diwylliant brodorol ni? Penci.

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  5. What a typically English attitude. You go to Cymru and take the piss out of the indigenous language! I believe there’s a word for such an attitude: colonialism. Do you also shit on the languages of the other countries you visit, or do you make an exception for Cymru? Well done for showing the world how narrow-minded you are. No wonder you feel at home in Aberdyfi; over 65% of the town’s population are English settlers!

    If you think that people wishing to see and use their own language in their own country are ‘Welsh language fanatics’, then you truly are stupid. If our languages irks you so, just stay in England with your fellow cultureless, uncouth, knuckle-dragging racist chums.

    Ignorant prick.

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  6. I think I would have just trashed that comment, Andrew. There’s absolutely no need for it, is there? It wiped the smile off my face and I was having such a good time! I shall smile every time I do the smwddio from now on 🙂 🙂

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  7. Oh I think I would love that kind of language. I adore making up words to fit my mood. See Dave’s head shaking as I write. Well I must be of to say hello to my popty ping which shall be forever known that way. Microwave seems so dull in comparison:)

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  8. OK I just read the comments which are a blog post unto themselves. You never know what is going to rile people up. I don’t delete much on my comments but that one is close to abusive which is my line in the sand.

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    • Humour is a funny thing Sue (deliberate pun). I don’t know how it is in Canada? In England we have a great ability to laugh at ourselves. The problem with the internet is that if you write for a world wide audience you just don’t know how some people will respond. I have made a lot of editorial revisions to that post believe me!

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      • I think we generally have a pretty good sense of fun here in Canada but I totally get what you are saying. I have been known to add a smiley face when I am concerned someone might not get my humor.

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      • Some people are so touchy! Even my travelling companion pal, Dai, objected to some of my content so I had to review all of the posts about my holiday to Wales.
        I don’t get it, anyone can make fun of me and I really don’t mind!
        I had to remove an entire post recently about Gibraltar because the comments were so abusive and too many to deal with and it was only a bit of fun!

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      • I hear you Andrew. The post I wrote last year on Where Not to go in Peru got a lot of that. I wasn’t being funny just giving people facts. Wowza what a firestorm.

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  9. Popty ping isn’t a Welsh word that any Welsh person actually uses, it was made up as some radio 1 joke and is literally only ever used when people repeat it that the Welsh word for microwave is popty-ping which… it isn’t.

    ‘nad oeddech yn gallu ei wneud yn i fyny’ shouldn’t have the second yn btw.

    ‘Cymreiddo’ is a thing (Idk if there’s a English word for that, if there was it’d be something like ‘Welshising’), where you can simply make a word Welsh by changing the spelling for example, like ambulance to ambiwlans, a word that is similar in many languages, the same as taxi is (tacsi because there is no x in Welsh, as k also is replaced with c because there isn’t meant to be a k in the Welsh language either). And why not when this is how most language is created?

    Just trying to be informative, as so much information spread about my language are falsities such as the above, and to make up for my disappointment that searching for ‘Welsh’ stuff on here results in just this and cakes. When one of the things you find when looking for Welsh post it talking about ‘Welsh fanatics’ don’t be surprised people react resentfully.

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