Joined: 30 May 2013
|Posted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:00 pm Post subject: Ego Trip to Wales and Linguistic Paranoia
|George Borrow heard a Welshman in a pub complaining that the English thought the Welsh were hogs but the Welsh were not hogs. Borrow might have expected the locals to be gratified that he had made some effort to learn their language, but apparently, this was not always true. A young woman on Anglesey said it was better to speak English. When he demurred at the notion that English was superior, she said that in any case, it was more genteel. She had internalised the idea that the local language would keep the Welsh 'under the hatches.
The labouring classes, anyway, were mostly monoglot Welsh speakers, who answered inquiries in English with the words,"Dim Saesneg." Yet according to Borrow, some people he met in pubs were offended that he understood Welsh. They did not want foreigners to learn it as it was a very handy code when strangers were about.
He spoke to an English servant maid, domiciled in Wales, who said she tried to pick up the local lingo but was never given any encouragement. She believed the locals used it as a code in which they discussed their secrets.
Borrow asked what secrets she thought they were, treason against Queen Victoria? pig stealing? Other dire conspiracies?
In 'Neighbours From Hell', Mike Parker said that his English friends became paranoid because the Welsh message on his answer phone was longer than the English one. They immediately assumed there had to be a sinister reason for this. He had in fact said 'If you leave a message in Welsh, please speak very, very slowly as I'm a learner.'
We've heard of an Englishman who began to run a pub in Wales. He was so overcome by paranoia that he threatened his Welsh speaking customers with an airgun. We've also heard of two women who were thrown out of a guesthouse in Blackpool for speaking Welsh to each other. It was inconceivable to the management that they were not using the 'Devil's language' as anti-fans of 'Pobol y Cwm' call it, with base and malignant intent.
Paranoia is a terrible thing. We've heard of one man being stabbed to death in Coburn Street in Cardiff for speaking Welsh. A man had his ear torn off in England just for having a Welsh accent. If 'Wild Wales' is to be believed, this must have been the revival of an old custom.
How should we deal with those who come out of a Welsh pub, and say "They were speaking English before I came in!" The obvious response is, how do you know what language they were speaking before you came in, unless you were eavesdropping outside the door? How do they know you can't understand them? You could come from the next village for all they know. They don't know you from a bar of soap. Don't flatter yourself that they've even noticed you. Who do you think you are, the centre of the universe? Aren't you getting a bit paranoid, dear?
Mike Parker says in 'Neighbours From Hell' that the English and the British generally are notorious for not learning the language if they retire to Spain for example. But, at least they don't object to the natives using it. But in Wales, they often cannot accept that people have a right to speak their own language. They say,"They're only doing it to make a point." The complainers always think it's something to do with them. How self-centred can you get?