Thursday, February 22, 2007

You gotta Love Thy Nighbour

Back in the olden days (1999), when I first had web access, the were no blogs or maes-e to waste my time on, in fact I can't think of any websites I'd actually visit regularly, appart from one by the author Mike Parker which had lots of interesting articles which I liked. I can't find it now though. I also own the Rough Guide to Wales by him which is very good.

Anyway, he's just launched a book called Neighbours from Hell?. The sub-heading 'English attitudes to the Welsh' explains what the book is about. Now, I haven't read the book, so I'm in no position to judge it. According the BBC, Mike Parker got the idea for the book after hearing one comment too many about the Welsh (by English folk)

The idea for the book came when I was reading some snide aside about the Welsh language in one of the London Sunday broadsheet newspapers, something along the lines of: "Welsh has no vowels and sounds like someone spitting".

It dawned on me that I'd read such comments many times before, when researching Welsh history, and that the same tired old cliches were passed down from generation to generation, like a particularly tiresome game of Chinese whispers.

I know exactly what he means, but I hardly want to read a whole book of these examples. The idea of the book has upset people on the Campaign for and English Parliament blog. I can see why they are annoyed, as it appears to paint generalise a whole nation based on the attitudes of a few. BUT the comments just seem to enforce the type of attitudes that are probably contained in the book.
Ok, it took until the 17th comment (out of 97), but soon the old "I walked into a pub and they all suddenly turn to Welsh" line is mentioned. Now I speak Welsh and have been frequenting pubs (legally) in Wales for the last 11 years and never come across this.

Surely if someone has such a problem with English people or the English language (and no doubt there are some), then surely they wouldn't be conversing in the language in the first place if they could also converse in Welsh? Maybe it's not possible for them to get their heads round the idea that there are people in Britain that don't use English as their first language, that somehow Welsh isn't a real language, just something people use to upset and unsettle visitors from England.

Or maybe they do realise that Welsh is still a living day-to-day language, but just don't like the fact. The following comment is quite is quite disturbing:
A long time ago our family visited Ireland. In the depths of the country we entered a restaurant where there were two other customers. Both ladies, both speaking Irish or Erse [Erse! wtf?], if that is the right term. As we entered, an obviously English family, they switched to English. We have always remembered their civility and politeness
Therefore speaking Welsh (or Erse!) is uncivilised!

Two Welsh speakers posted comments in response, one being the author of this article Talking your language, but they were just accused of being bigots and racists themselves!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always appreciate it when total strangers switch to English so that I can listen in on their private conversations.

I also make a point of making sure that I am "obviously English" so that people know to switch. After all, its the least I can do.


2/22/2007 3:24 pm  
Blogger Toque said...

I'm a CEP member and I really don't have a problem with the book. If such attitudes exist then it's good that they are explored.

2/25/2007 6:39 pm  

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