Thursday, 1 September 2011

Freedom of speech

I posted the quote by Lembit Opic in my last post partly because of my ongoing preoccupation with freedom of speech. He actually made the statement referring to a specific story recently in the news. The story is another illustration of the common, but erroneous, view that some people have that they have a right not to be offended.

The offence was caused when Roger Lewis, a Welsh author wrote a piece in which he quoted Kingsley Amis, who had made derogatory remarks about the Welsh language. The remarks were read by Jonathan Edwards, a Welsh MP, who reacted in a manner that can only be described as hysterically excessive, reporting Mr Lewis to the Home Secretary, the Press Complaints Commission, and the Police.

Fortunately most Welsh have seen Mr Edwards for the pompous arrogant oversensitive little twat that he is and seem to be unimpressed with his outburst. 

So what was said that drove Mr Edwards to such self indulgent spluttering. The offending phrase was that Welsh was, "an appalling and moribund monkey language, which hasn't had a new noun since the Middle Ages" The first half of the statement is pure opinion, but the point about nouns is testable and I have done a little brief research. From what I have found it looks as if Kingsley Amis had a point. I simply looked up the Welsh equivalents for a few modern words, and I am going to illustrate with just three examples, though I found more.

English                  Welsh

Garage                 Garag
Ambulance           Ambiwlans
Computer             Compiwter

Hmmmmmm...... That’s not a language. That’s Dyslexia that is.


  1. A small number of prejudicial ideas seem to remain acceptable. The attitudes of some of the English towards the Welsh and the Welsh language are a case in point.

    Substitute "Urdu" or "Somali" for "Welsh" in the Roger Lewis article and note how you would feel on re-reading it. A little less comfortable?

    Whenever the Welsh are insulted by the likes of Roger Lewis, Ann Robinson, AA Gill and AN Wilson, the resultant column inches tend to be disproportionately skewed to English commentators advising the Welsh on how to get over their lack of a sense of humour.

    This is not clever journalism.

    It would be worth your while to do some more etymological research. Every language borrows from others. Even English. Especially English. Your first example - "garage" is directly borrowed from the French. OK, let's find an example that has not been preserved in its original form - "television" - this is a bastardised bolting together of elements derived from Greek and Latin.

    All this brings to mind a meeting some years ago when an English politician, describing the Welsh as lacking flair for business, stated that it was not surprising that there wasn't a word for "entrepreneur" in the Welsh dictionary. At which point a Welshman asked him "Well, what is the English word for it then?"

  2. Ambulance -

    in Albanian = ambulancë
    in Basque = anbulantzia
    in Catalan = ambulància
    in Filipino = ambulansya
    in Finnish = ambulanssi
    in Haitian Creole = anbilans
    (I do like the German one, though = krankenwagen)

    So, it seems that dyslexia is rife in non-English speaking countries....

  3. At least it doesn't cost you money. I'm under increasing pressur eto pay (out of my own pocket) for surgery leaflets in Welsh.. but this is the north coastal strip, populated by scousers, mancuniand and brummies. Enough for me to say "Ach y fie!".