Sunday, April 22, 2007

Column, April 17, 2007

NOT really a language is it?
That’s the conclusion one or two English people reach when confronted by two welsh words in particular – teledu and toiledau.
It’s more an odd way of pronouncing English isn’t it? We just nick an English word, add in a few ffs, dds, lls and use au instead of s for plurals and bob’s your uncle, or rather wncl as we might have it.
And they’re right. How jealous we must be of a people whose language has remained unsullied by outside influence, pure and true to its Greek and Latin roots.
The English can dine in a restaurant, a la carte on a smorgasbord of, whelks, yoghurt, mousse and fromage frais. Or you might simply sip a latte or a lager in a café and you would still be speaking the Queen’s English.
You could live in a bijou hacienda in a cul-de-sac or plaza, perhaps even a bungalow or a chalet. If your tastes were grander perhaps a place with a concierge or a verandah and naturally its bidet and sauna would be en suite. It would come complete with an au pair and you’d still be speaking the Queen’s English.
You could cover your body with tattoos if that wasn’t taboo and the language you would be using would still be QE.
You might be clothed in a bra, bikini, knickers, bandoleer and culottes, shod in espadrilles, wearing jodhpurs coloured khaki and a kaftan woven from calico or chintz. You might look a bit avant garde, but you would be speaking the Queen’s English.
If animals were your forte you could go on safari to spot penguins, canaries or cockatoos and corgis or even take in a gymkhana or polo match.
An Englishman can take to the road in a diesel-powered juggernaut and even tow a caravan before stopping off at an oasis and the language he would be using would be the Queen’s.
If you were a bit of a thug you might cause a fracas or even mount a coup d’etat to dispose of the ancien regime just like the tsars, and the clique convicted on a dodgy dossier of evidence would be put to the guillotine.
If you were of a more nautical bent you could sail your flotilla, or even an armada or catamarans before putting into a marina.
If the wanderlust seizes you, you could schlep your way to your destination and if you started to perspire then a dab of cologne or eau de toilette will sort it out.
If you were some sort of wunderkind you could tot up the cost of a devastating tsunami using an abacus though pundits might frown if you showed any schadenfreude in the wake of the disaster.
To make the peace you might hold a powwow, but if that didn’t work you could always engage the services of an assassin or mount a guerrilla campaign, naturally using the Queen’s English.
If the cold wind blows then you’ve a choice of anorak, parka or a cagoule to keep out the chill and you’d still be speaking the Queen’s English.
You might think this column a little bizarre or even poppycock, but it’s because there’s a bonanza of words in English that started off their lives not being English and which the English just purloined along the way.
You could in fact spend your whole day speaking English, but using words that weren’t English and if you ran out of steam and feared you might be incommunicado then you simply filibuster.
You see languages don’t work well if they’re subject to some sort of linguistic apartheid, it’s the ability to assimilate others that makes them so strong.
It’s part of the reason that English has become a sort of lingua franca, as it were, it has given it its strength and its enduring character.
There is an irony to those who snigger at the Welsh snaffling a modern word here or there, when English has plundered other languages just as the Empire expanded. They are rightly proud of the language used by Shakespeare, or the Bard, as he is known, a word they stole from the Welsh.
So in answer to those who think toiledau is linguistic larceny, I would point out that today’s column has been brought to you courtesy of Algonquin, Dutch, Eskimo, Egyptian, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tahitian, Tamil, Tibetan, Tongan, Turkish, Urdu, Yiddish and of course, Welsh, and every word of it the Queen’s English.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (Dutch word).

4 comments:

Mei said...

Isn't the weather lovely these days? Fancy a barbeque?

Banksy said...

Nothing better than dining al fresco.

Ifan Morgan Jones said...

There's plenty of English words taken from Welsh.

Adder - neidr.
Avon - afon.
Booth - bwthyn.
Bow - bwa.
Coney - cwningen.
Coracle - cwragl.
Druid - derwydd.
Flannel - gwlanen.
Whelk - gwalc.
Yew - ywen.
Crockery - crochan.
Dad - tad.
Coombe - cwm.
Menhir - maen hir (long stone).

And of course everyone's fave, penguin!

+ words for which there are no english translation, such as englyn, eisteddfod and cynghanedd.

Guto said...

Penguin is so not Welsh! First of all, penguins have BLACK heads!

I've stolen your coloum and posted it on Blamerbell's comments page (someone had started to use the "It's just English words changed a bit" argument). Dont worry, I gave you credit!