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9895.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:58 am Reply with quote

Gaazy, am I right in thinking that that tremendously long name of the Welsh railway station which is abbreviated as Llanfair P isn't a real name but was dreamt up as a publicity stunt? Maybe a question there, if so.

9901.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:42 am Reply with quote

Flash, you are quite right. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch's previous (and true) name was Llanfairpwllgwyngyll only, but the when the railway was built between Chester and Holyhead at the beginning of the 1850s, A local committee was put together to try and encourage tourists to stop at the village. The idea of extending the name is thought to have been the brainwave of a local cobbler, and hordes of visitors come to the village just to see the signs - and buy all sorts of related souvenirs. You can still get an old-style railway ticket that's about 6 inches long.

Welsh speakers call the place Llanfairpwll; in English it's usually Llanfair P.G. Almost inevitably, it has its own (mis-spelled) URL:

By the way, the village itself has little to commend it except for its synthetic name; there is a huge branch of Pringle's clothiers next to the station, which, for reasons that escape me entirely, attracts coachloads of visitors each year - that's to the shop, remember, not the village as such. 20 miles away, in the stunning and genteel resort of Llandudno, there are chalked signs outside coach companies' offices with legends such as Day Trips to Pringles on Anglesey on them - no particular mention of what you might expect to be drawing the tourists.

9903.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:48 am Reply with quote

Just a thought - the question "how many letters make up the name of Llanfair......gogogoch" might lead to sirens and bells on the programme - the answer most people would give would be 58, but the real answer is 51 - the reason being that "ll" and "ch" count as single letters in Welsh (as do "dd", "ff", "ng", "ph", "rh" and "th").

9904.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:49 am Reply with quote

Well that's Quite Good, thanks for that. World's most successful publicity stunt ever. Cost, about 3 shillings and sixpence. Impact huge, and lasting for 150 years and counting. Also scope for a bit more Alan-baiting.

9910.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:33 am Reply with quote


Speaking of Welsh 'mis-spellings', I discovered at the weekend that the word Lloyd isn't Welsh at all, it's an anglicization of 'luyd' and pronounced 'loyd', not "Chloyd" which it would be if it has the Welsh 'double-l' letter on the front.

I also discovered that Llewelyn contains example of both double and single 'l' sounds, the former at the front, the latter in the middle, so it is pronounced "Chlewellin" not "Chlewechlin".

My father was called Llewelyn Lloyd so I suppose I should have known both these things, but I didn't.

My questions are:

1. Are these 'facts' broadly correct?
2. Does the Welsh "double-l" letter have a name?

9918.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 10:37 am Reply with quote

I can find no evidence that Llwyd went to Lloyd by way of Lhuyd (sic); most authorities favour a direct transition, as suggested in a passage from which I'll quote at the end of this message.

The occasional form Lhuyd is an attempt, like Floyd, and indeed "Chloyd", to denote the sound of the letter "ll". The correct way to pronounce it is to say the letter "l" using the breath only (it's a voiceless lateral fricative), but that's very difficult to do without someone to help you. You need to blow air under your tongue on one side of your mouth, your tongue held in the "l" position.

Shakespeare used "Fluellen" to denote "Llewelyn", where the single "l" is a completely different letter to "ll" and therefore pronounced exactly as the English letter. There are variants - Llywelyn is another Welsh version quite as common as the other: "llyw" means leader and "llew" means lion, and it's thought that the leonine connection influenced the original Llyw... spelling.

"Ll" doesn't have a name as such, since the Welsh alphabet is usually learnt as a succession of the sounds of the letters themselves. But there is an alphabet which goes (this is phonetic English) Aa, bee, ekk, dee, evv, eff, eng ... and eventually "ell", where the "ll" sound is of course our friend the unvoiced lateral fricative.

Here's the relevant passage from the URL I mentioned:

Since W and Y are semi-vowels in both Iberian Celtic and Cymric, one spelling is a variant of the other. An example of semi-vowel to vowel transition may be seen in the name Llwyd to Lloyd. This transition is documented in History of Wales, by Caradoc of Llancarvan; translated into English by Dr. Powell. Caradoc lived until the year ca. 1157. Dr. Powell added to Caradoc's original work, and published it in the English language in 1584.

9920.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 11:24 am Reply with quote

Thanks, Gaazy.

Very quite interesting as ever.

Especially on the illuminating proper way to produce 'LL'.

The only thing I'm still not clear on is the 'correct' or 'original' spelling of Llewelyn...

Is it Llewellyn or Llywellyn or all three, or what?

Sorry to be dense.

9922.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 11:59 am Reply with quote

No, the second "ll" is an English alteration, but still pronounced "l". I have seen other names Anglicized in this manner, for example Dilwyn, which appeared as "Dillwyn", but then incorrectly pronounced by over-zealous non-Welsh speakers with the lateral fricative in it.

I ought to check this, but I'm fairly sure that it's incorrect to say "Barthelona" for Barcelona, as it's a Catalan word, not a Spanish one.

The first appearances of Ll*welyn were with a "y", but followed within a generation or two by the one with an "e". Some Welshmen are called Llew (=lion), this originally being a diminutive of Llewelyn.

9923.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:11 pm Reply with quote

Thanks, Gaazy, gotcha.

Look forward to the Barcelona facts.

Meanwhile, here's one for you.

Mount Everest should properly be pronounced "Ee-verest" not "Ever-est".

9926.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:40 pm Reply with quote

Altering spellings of placenames for the benefit of non-native speakers can lead to problems, as I've outlined. An example is "Creunant", which is properly pronounced Kray-nant. However, it was thought by English authorities a century or more ago that it ought to be pronounced "Cry-nant" (rhyming with "pie chant" or "fly plant"), and they put up signposts with that spelling on it. This was before the days when Wales had bilingual roadsigns.

Confronted, therefore, by signs showing Crynant, Welsh speakers assumed it was pronounced "Krunnant". The same thing happened to Maenan (English signs = Mynan, Welsh pronunciation of English spelling = "Munnan") and other places.

Something of the reverse happened in instances such as Dolgellau, where the English version was "Dolgelley" or "Dolgelly"; here, Welsh speakers weren't influenced by the new spelling because the town is a very well-known one, but English speakers were wont to pronounce it to rhyme with jelly.

This led to a well-known English poet - it might have been Wordsworth, but I can't find references at the moment - writing the following scrap of doggerel, which I'm quoting from memory and may have got some details wrong:

If ever you visit Dolgelly,
Don't stay at the **** hotel;
You'll get no food in your belly,
And there's no-one to answer the bell.

If this is ever quoted by Welsh speakers (which won't be often), the "ll"s are generally jocularly pronounced in the Welsh manner, which creates an interesting new pronunciation of "belly".

9932.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:54 pm Reply with quote

I believe it's true that the pronunciation "Copenhaaagen" by English speakers is, or was, frowned upon by Danes because it reminded them of the pronunciation once used by the German occupation - the Danish people favoured the pronunciation "Copenhaygen".

In any case, the Danish name for the city is København.

Which pronunciation was used by the song "Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen"?

Some people proudly use a German "ch" when saying the name Munich; but, as it's the English name for what the Germans call München, it ought to rhyme with "lick", I suppose.

9936.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:35 pm Reply with quote

In the song, Copenhagen is pronounced Copenhaagen. The way the Danes pronounce it sounds more like Kurb'nharn.

Danish is an incredibly sloppy language in terms of pronunciation. The street in Copenhagen with the spelling Middelfart is pronounced 'Millfar'.

A wonderful dessert of red berries with cream is spelled something like Rød grød med flød and all the hard d sounds disappear completely when you say it, so it comes out almost like rølgrølmelfløl

All this according to friends of mine - one set in Copenhagen and the other about twenty miles north of it.

Bøt, which means boat, is pronounced exactly the way you would pronounce boat if you had a broad Yorkshire accent.

9940.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 6:14 pm Reply with quote

More Danish, please, Jen!

Frederick The Monk
9943.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 6:28 pm Reply with quote

Bøt, which means boat, is pronounced exactly the way you would pronounce boat if you had a broad Yorkshire accent

- which isn't surprising when you consider the Scandinavian influence on Yorkshire from the 9th century onwards.

9951.  Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:48 pm Reply with quote

Gaazy, your "scrap of doggerel" featured on the Welsh Special edition of "Quote Unquote" on Radio 4 this evening. It was before I read your post, so I didn't catch who it was by - if you cared enough to do so, you could probably find it on the listen again web service.

The programme also contained the snippet that Kenneth Williams was originally known professionally as "Kenneth C Williams" but he dropped the initial because people thought he was saying "Tennessee Williams".


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