Sunday, 24 January 2016

Happy Donkey Hill or Faerdre Fach

BBC News Video : Campaigners call for law to protect Welsh place-names

Stories are what make toponymy interesting and the two names featured in this video tell two simple stories.

The old name, Faerdre Fach, is medieval - dating back to the 14th century.
Faerdref or maerdref, indicates a dairy hamlet on demesne land (feudal land owned and managed by the lord for his own purposes). 


These dairy-houses were kept at a little distance from the castles and courts of noblemen and the bonded tenants who lived there supplied dairy and other food products to their feudal lords.  There were two farmhouses here and they were called Faerdre Fawr, ‘great’ and Faerdre Fach, ‘little’.

It's great to know that 700 years later Faedre Fach is still a farm with hens and cows. But it is also a holiday site featuring B&B, self-catering cottages and a riding school. The tourists, of course, can't pronounce the name properly and, more importantly, would find it difficult to remember. Happy Donkey Hill Farm seems rather more appropriate for a business and, given the resident donkeys, why not? 
The actual farm is not going to change its name so there is no stark choice as the video seems to make out. I think both names can work well together.

The other examples given in the video tell of a more protracted fight over linguistic ownership of place names. Again the place names are telling us stories. Stories about the landscape and what it was used for. 
I have given the Welsh name, followed by a literal English translation. The contested English name follows in brackets. 

Porth Crugmor...'barrow (burial mound) cove' (Cable Bay)
Cwm Cneifion...'shearing valley'  (Nameless Cwm)
Cribarth...'bear ridge'  (Sleeping Giant)
Ynys-las...'green island' (Sausage Island)

I can't see how any of the English names is an 'improvement' on the original, and it seems such a shame to lose these wonderful 'linguistic monuments' simply because people cannot pronounce the names. 

The irony here is that Welsh (unlike English)is a phonetic language - words are pronounced as they are written. 
All you have to do is follow a few simple rules:

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