England’s Dreaming

I was reading about the history of these islands last week. It set off a whole chain of thoughts, memories and some unexpected laughs.

I’m particularly enjoying this page.
Open the link “Listen using ReadSpeaker” in a new window and marvel at the cut glass computer voice making a total hash of the Welsh. Repeat for the other languages. I like the Japanese one, it sounds like a shortwave numbers station.

When I was around 7-years old, I went with my family for a holiday in Torquay on the south-west coast of England. That town and the region surrounding are known as the English Riviera.

Back in Victorian times, the original riviera – the French Riviera – had established itself as an affordable holiday destination, albeit for the rich.

Budget holidaymakers who couldn’t make it to France were a large market. So tour operators on England’s south coast responded with a rebranding exercise and the concept of the English Riviera was born. Giving the tour operators the benefit of the doubt, we could view it as an early example of what marketeers now call positioning.

Among my fond memories I remember the sight of scrawny “palm” trees withering miserably along the sea front. Palm trees don’t grow well in England, but the French Riviera had them so the English gave it a go. They eventually found a breed of New Zealand tree that looked a lot like palm trees, for that hint of class and exoticism for which Devon is (not really) known.

I had a good time in Torquay. But when I visited, the riviera label was already looking outmoded – and that was the 1980s. Now, in this era of low cost airlines, the English Riviera is a tired name, and today’s average 7-year old child will understand this. It surprises me that they persist in using this “me-too” brand rather than promoting the actual distinctives of the place. Why remain in a category in which you can only hope to be number two – or worse?

In music it’s like a tribute band inspired purely by a band that is still alive. What’s the point?

If you’re curious why I returned to the Riviera last week, if only mentally, I’d been searching for the word “Lloegr” on Google (GOOG).

In modern day Welsh, the words for England and English are totally different to each other. Lloegr means the area we now call England and Saesneg refers to its main language. Anyway, this distinction is pretty neat in my opinion. Consider the ramifications!

(Yes, we’re back on the double-Ls, at least for now.)

Lloegr is a very old word with origins in the Brythonic language which was spoken in many parts of what’s now known as Britain.

It’s believed England (as we now know it) was already called Lloegr, or something very similar, before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. And definitely before the Norman Conquest. But that’s another story and, you might say, another victory for the French – thankfully not compounded by any embarrassments involving branding or trees.

5 Replies to “England’s Dreaming”

  1. “In music it’s like a tribute band inspired purely by a band that is still alive. What’s the point?”

    I have a solution to this w.r.t. all the Oasis tribute bands. I can supply the necessary tools, do you know where the Gallaghers live?

    You mention the Welsh words for English/England. My friend Owain, another recent Welsh learner, tells me that the Welsh word for English person means something like ‘stranger’, and the Welsh word for a Welsh person means something like ‘friend’. It seems to me there’s an inherent anti-English bias built into the language there, that’s not present in English – the words ‘English’ and ‘Welsh’ having no such alternative meanings.

  2. Sorri to gate crash like this, but a friend just posted a link to one of your recent post about leaning Welsh on his delicious acocunt.

    I think Owain, or Mei (or both) have got this a little mixed up. From the little that I don kow, it was the Anglo-Saxon (?) word ‘Welsh’ that means/meant ‘stranger’ – whether or not it was intended as an insult or maybe just that Welsh (or then Brythonic) people were the most common non-AngloSaxon that they came across.

    The word Cymro (plural:Cymry) come from a Brythonic word for either friend or brother.

    Hope this clears up any perceived in-built anti-Englishnes 😉

  3. Does either language have a word for touché?


    More seriously the John Davies Hanes Cymru book has an insightful passage on the word.

    In my English language version (yes, call me a cop-out) it’s on page 69:
    “It would appear that ‘Welsh’ meant not so much foreigners as peoples who had been Romanized; other versions of the word may be found along the borders of the (Roman) Empire – the Walloons of Belgium, the Welsch of the Italian Tyrol and the Vlachs of Romania – and the welschnuss, the walnut, was the nut of the Roman lands.”

    It’s likely to be the source of the “wall” in Cornwall too.

    (Something highly irregular about my pointing this out to gents called Meirion and Owain.) All the best!

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