The word Welsh can refer to the Celtic language of Wales, called Cymric in that language, or it can be an adjective referring to items related to “Wales or its people, language or culture” (AHD s.v. Welsh. The etymology of Welsh is interesting. Etymologically, the word Welsh entered Modern English via the Middle English Walische, derived from Old English Wælisc, from Old English Wealh, “foreigner.” The plural form of wealh, wealas, gave us the Modern English word Wales. There’s a certain irony that the Germanic-speaking invaders refer to the previous inhabitants of Britain, the Celtic speaking ancestors of modern Welsh, as “foreigners,” but to the English, the people “over there,”…
There’s universal agreement today that a penguin is: Any of various stout, flightless aquatic birds of the family Spheniscidae, of the Southern Hemisphere, having flipperlike wings and webbed feet adapted for swimming and diving, short scalelike feathers, and white underparts with a dark back (AHD). It’s possible that penguin is of Welsh origin; it breaks down very neatly into pen + gwen/gwyn, with pen meaning “head,” and gwen meaning “white,” (and there are species of penguin with white heads). However, the etymology isn’t at all certain. The OED offers two early quotations in context: 1577 F. FLETCHER Log of ‘Golden Hind’ 24 Aug. in N. M. Penzer World Encompassed (1971)…
Lady Charlotte Guest
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s “Life of the Week” post this week is a biography of Lady Charlotte Guest, the translator of the Mabinogion, including the four mabinogi proper, as well as the three Welsh tales, and the four Arthurian romances, as well as several other tales, including the prose Taliesin fragment from the sixteenth century, edited by Patrick Ford as the Ystoria Taliesin in 1991. Lady Guest’s translation, with the accompanying notes, is actually quite wonderful; it was the first translation I ever read, and it still remains well-worth reading. It has become fashionable to sneer at her—and imply that she wasn’t responsible for the work. She was;…
Welsh, Cyclists, and Bladder Disease
A temporary sign on the side of the road at Barons Court roundabout between Penarth and Cardiff correctly reads “cyclists dismount” in English, but the Welsh translation, “llid y bledren dymchwelyd,” isn’t, actually, a translation. In fact, strictly speaking, it isn’t even Welsh, since the syntax is all wrong. Llid y bledren means “bladder disease,” while dymchwelyd means “return.” So, ignoring the syntax problem, the sign reads something like “Bladder disease [has] returned.” You can read the story and see a picture of the sign here.
JKW on Culwch ac Olwen
Jeffry Jerome Cohen, medievalist and blogger at In the Middle, is on vacation, so guest blogger JKW who usually blogs at Pistols in the Pulpit is filling in. JKW says of himself: My dissertation, which I’m beginning this summer, is about political language, specifically the language of kingship, in England and Wales in the age of Chaucer. Thus far he’s blogged about Culwch ac Olwen and the implications of the “oldest animals” here.
Padel Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature
The Green Man Review has posted my review of O. J. Padel’s Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature.
My review of John Matthews Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman is up at The Green Man Review. I’m not overly impressed with Matthews’ Taliesin as a scholarly work. I do think a case can be made for Celtic poets engaging in and writing about shamanic behaviors, and I’ve written about some of the standard scholarly sources regarding Taliesin here.
A New Welsh Blog
Earlier I linked to Morfablog, and just today, I’ve discovered Hogynorachub, another Welsh blog.
Beth am gystadlu yn unig e-steddfod y byd? Cliciwch yma am y rhestr testunau a hanes yr eisteddfod. Why not compete in the world’s only on-line e-steddfod?, or “poetry competition” Click here for competition details and a history of the eisteddfod.