Recently I heard Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 refer to the town of Dolgellau in Wales (N52:44:24 W3:53:24). He pronounced it as “Dolga-l-ow” and made the last syllable rhyme with “cow”.

Why-oh-why can’t a broadcast professional do a little research before guessing this pronunciation? A little goes a long way.

(I couldn’t resist writing “why-oh-why” back there, it’s obligatory if you’re passing comment about the BBC. If it’s a positive comment about the BBC – and there are many conceivable ones – then you should finish by emphatically saying “thank you BBC”.)

There is such a thing as a Pronunciation Unit at the BBC for internal use. And a BBC styleguide which is quite a fun read.

There’s also a webpage of audio pronunciations which might be handy, courtesy of… the BBC.

To pronounce Dol-gell-au correctly, the last syllable rhymes with “eye” and the combination “ll” signifies a voiceless fricative sound. Put your tongue as if you’d make an “l” sound then blow air instead.

This sound is not unique to Welsh. Several other languages feature the sound. If you can already speak Navaho, Greenlandic or Zulu – or a combination of them – you’ll have no problem with it.

Thanks for reading my new blog. If you ever try to correct anything so picky as my pronunciation, I’ll fight you.

5 Replies to “Dolgellau”

  1. I used to live near Machynlleth, which is fairly close to Dollgellau, and once when I was walking home along the main road a large lorry pulled up and the driver jumped out and said, “can you tell me the way to ‘Machine Lathe’ please”. It was in a broad Yorkshire accent making it funnier still, I had a job to point over me shoulder I was laffing so much!. Anyhoo, Jeremy Vine, a quintessential English accent if ever, but he does have Terry Walton from the Rhondda on every Friday to give a little Welsh culture! See ya

  2. Well, Dolgellau is my home town so I’ve heard plenty mangling of the name.

    The best one I think was the pronucniation by a visitor from our Breton twin town, Gwenrann (Guérande), who pronounced it “Doggish-lau” (lau as in “allow”).

  3. This is terrific. I was in Dolgellau once in the 80s (and climbed Cader Idris). I learned to pronounce the name while I was there but had forgotten how to do it. And frankly, I do a lousy job of it anyway. What a wonderful trip that was. The innkeeper dried our boots for us overnight by the kitchen fire. I’ll never forget it.

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