The origins of words, with Sioned Stryd-Cludydd

Mostly, what comes from the mouth of Janet Street-Porter is total bum gravy. This is no exception.

“We had a Welsh-speaking budgie. My mother missed Wales very much. I don’t feel Welsh at all. There’s no Welsh words for anything modern.”

Street-Porter is one of those people who enjoys a level of media coverage disproportionate to her level of ability or insight. (Incidentally people like this are certainly not worth protesting against, don’t waste your time. Maybe a quick throwaway blog post though…)

It did make me think how someone can really struggle if they attempt to pass comment on things they know very little about. And I figured, it’s at least a good chance for me to learn more Welsh words.

So if you have any good modern words, feel free to comment. And together let’s make a page on the INTERNET!

Modern means anything of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past. But no use being ultra-strict about it.

Here are some modern Welsh words, each with an English translation.

ailgoedwigo (reafforestation)
ailgylchu (recycling)
amser real (real time)
biohinsoddeg (bioclimatology)
blogiwr (blogger)
chwyddo mewn (zoom in)
cludadwyedd data (data portability)
cnewyllyn (kernel)
cronfa ddata (database)
cyfalaf menter (venture capital)
cyfieithu peirianyddol (machine translation)
cywasgu data (data compression)
datganoli (devolution)
diagram Venn (Venn diagram)
dirwasgiad (recession)
gallu i ryngweithredu (interoperability)
gwefan (website)
meddalwedd (software)
porthiant RSS (RSS feed)
rhesymeg Boole (Boolean logic)
sebon dogfennol (docusoap)
siocled (chocolate)
system weithredu (operating system)
teledu (television)
tewdra (obesity)
troseddwr rhyfel (war criminal)
unben ffasgaidd (fascist dictator)
weldiad bôn (butt weld)

You might sometimes notice the Latin root of some words. Welsh has incorporated words from Latin for many, many centuries, just as English has done with Latin, Greek and French. Seemingly “civilised” Welsh words, particularly certain legal concepts which might be assumed to derive from Latin, can often date from pre-Roman times. Read John Davies A History Of Wales!

Globalisation can sometimes result in many different languages all adopting the same, or a similar, word for something. I’m thinking of “chocolate” in different languages, as well as “blog”, “wiki” and so on.

I heard that teledu was the result of a magazine competition to find a suitable word when it was a new technology (is this true?). It’s based on darlledu (broadcast). Of course, the English word “television” was mocked when it emerged for being half-Greek and half-Latin. And I now mock modern attempts to coin English words like “staycation“, which just catch on anyway.

New Welsh words are frequently invented of course, just as English ones are.

Language is, in the words of George Orwell, “an instrument which we shape for our own purposes”.

Sources: Geiriadur BBC, Geiriadur Llanbedr, Termiadur

12 Replies to “The origins of words, with Sioned Stryd-Cludydd”

  1. Good idea for a post.

    Agreed about the protesting, and I bet she loved it anyway.

    I can’t remember what exactly she said to prompt Cymuned to stage the picket, but following that, she was one of the suprise contestants on ‘Celebrity’ cariad@iaith (think of Cwrs haf meets Big Brother), back in the days when S4C thought that what we really want is the same drivel on UK telly, only in Welsh – not a lot has changed there then.

    Any way, while they were learning the basics dw i’n hoffi te, dw i’n hoffi coffee dw i’n hoffi coffi du, JSP butts in saying “What you’re teaching is totally irrelevant to me, I live in London, so I’d rather know what cappuccino is in Welsh”.

    She was serious…

    Back to the list:
    gliniadur (laptop)
    co’ bach / cofbin (USB memory stick)
    ymbelydredd (radiocativity)
    snobyddiaeth (snobbery)
    archfarchnad (supermarket)
    popty ping / meicrodon (microwave)

    Obesity is actually gordewdra. Tewdra is just fatness

  2. The standard riposte is, of course, “OK, but what’s cappuccino in English?”

    It reminds me of the quote “The problem with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur” which is totally classic but unfortunately George Bush didn’t actually say it.

    I stand corrected on your superior vocabulary of fatness. I don’t like popty ping though. It’s no joke. Otherwise ardderchog! More please!

    What are Welsh words you know for television remote control, official/written and colloquial? In English I’ve heard people say flicker, clicker, hoofah-doofah, thingamy, etc.

    Learning a language is like going on a total mind holiday. You really notice the ways other people do things. I feel more posts coming on.

  3. I know ffon poced as ffon symydol, but I think I prefer the idiosyncratic feel of ffon poced. Co’bach is a genius word that I am going to use as much as possible.

    Hofrenydd – helicopter

    I’ve often heard ‘helicopter’ cited as being a modern word that Welsh has no equivalent to. I think that Paul Whitehouse was inspired by hearing a program on S4C where they were speaking – to him at least – gibberish punctuated regularly by the word ‘helicopter’. It made him laugh and he thought of the cod Spanish TV sketch for the Fast Show. Obviously, ‘helicopter’ is a made up word in any language. And a good one too.

    I agree with you Carl – I like the words that are not literal translations but rather express something of the relationship the language users have with the object in question.

    They are mainly nouns though. Any interesting verbs and adjectives that are specific to the modern age? To download, to action, and all of that kind of speak?

  4. @Liam

    When OpenOffice was first localised* there were many commands that needed translating. One of the the most common is save (document).

    In English, save has many different meaning, and in Welsh there’s a different word for each

    save money (as in BOGOF) – arbed
    save money (in a saving account) – cynilo
    save someone (from drowning) – achub
    save a penalty – arbed

    But thankfully, whoever translated OpenOffice (people behind I assume), choses cadw (keep) for save. When the Microsoft Office software were eventually localised, they also went with cadw.

    *Even though OpenOffice had already been localised, some well meaning people from Aberystwyth Uni got some European funding to pay for an updated version. They went ahead and commissioned and also produced a nice looking user guide to go with it. Sadly, they chose to ignore the original version of OpenOffice and use arbed in place of cadw. There might have been other differences as well. Of course, people from went ahead and localised the updated version of OpenOffice and then there was the silly situation of two versions of the same software with slightly different.

  5. Interesting! I definitely prefer cadw to arbed in this context; as a verb it seems to illustrate the action being discussed more precisely than the more vague arbed. It’s interesting that Welsh is more precise than English in this sense. I think that English’s ability to bend and stretch words and grammar is a big reason why it’s such a beautiful and flexible language. Perhaps that’s why it has become the lingua franca of many situations: it’s easy to bend it but hard to break it! Welsh, like lots of languages, feels more brittle but more succinct.

  6. Ha! That was doubtlessly a big part of its ‘success’. However, I don’t think it is the sole reason. If it didn’t work as a lingua franca, it wouldn’t be one. People would soon give it up.

    I remember a trip to Croatia (or Hrvatska in the local tongue) a few years back that illustrates my theory. As usual, I’d made a little effort to learn a few phrases in the local language – the usual salutations and pleasantries – and did my best to use them. After consistently being misunderstood, I asked a good English speaker what I was doing wrong. After much discussion, he realised that I was merely putting an accent onto the wrong syllable of some words, rendering them unintelligible to the listeners. However, I have no problem understanding English learners as they butcher the grammar and pronunciation. It made me realise that perhaps English is simply able to stand up to this sort of thing better than lots of other languages, probably because of it’s mongrel origins from a variety of Scandinavian and Romance tongues.

    English is a really tough language to master. My experiences as a primary school teacher definitely stand as witness to that! However, it’s a really easy language to make yourself understood in and it can withstand all sorts of misuse and abuse while retaining the kernel of meaning intact. Ever seen two people from different language backgrounds using English as a common tongue? That’s got to be for reasons more practical than simply the determined colonial efforts of our forefathers…

    But I’m straying off topic now! Sorry.

  7. No worries at all. It’s all about language and that’s the blog post category!

    Liam, this could be the desired unblocking of your blogging flow. Why not write a post on your blog about this?


  8. Origin of teledu: I remember T Glynne Davies mentioning that he was a member of a committee set up to decide the welsh word for tv many years ago.

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