Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Welsh?

That hilarious episode with the LWPCSF2L last night got me thinking. Why does it need a "W" ?
Why do we have to identify it as Welsh ? Why is it the Welsh Premier? Or for that matter, the Scottish Premier League when we only refer to the English competition as The Premiership? (Of course I can also argue that The Premiership, as a derivative of The Football League is no more exclusively English than the BBC).

It's all about confidence of course. I spoke in a previous article about our acceptance of England as the starting point to which we all doff our cap. This institutional dismissal is endemic in sport. The FAW or The FA? The England and Wales Cricket Board Representative XI, or just England?

Of course none of this matters very much. Just shrug and get on with your life. Except that it does. Every time that Eddie Butler talks about the Welsh scrum, but England's lineout, he is subconsciously disassociating himself from his country. He is talking about them, the Welsh, literally foreigners in the original Saxon term Welleas. And Eddie Butler does this a lot. Listen to him next time.

Our own use of the term Welsh to describe our own competitions is insulting, but it is also symptomatic of our weakness. If we used more of the Welsh language, then the Welsh word Cynghrair would suffice. We would know that it is the Welsh League because it is in our country's language. See Bundesliga, or La Liga for examples. No Need for Deutsch or Espanol in there.

But we let it go. We don't even think about it now. Life's too short. I went to Next in Bangor last week, where they will happily sell you a full range of England football bedroom furniture for your house. Nothing for a Welsh boy. Not a stitch. And this in Wales.

Four years ago, our campaign against Gilesports in Cardiff led to concessions against their promotion of England in the World Cup. And supermarkets across Wales have been shamed away from English flag waving across our country during international football tournaments.

That's the big stuff - the obvious stuff. It's the petty things that slip, which are creating cracks in our identity while we plug the dam. Like the England furniture in Next and our use of the word Welsh to describe our own organisations. We always refer to North Wales, never the North which immediately conjures up images of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Tyneside. Why should that be the case in Wales? We talk about the prosperity of The South, when we mean London, Surrey and Middlesex. It's a language issue of course. Welsh speakers all know where Gogledd is and Y Dde is some 150 miles away from London. But we use their language; ergo we use their points of reference.

But we shouldn't blame the English. It's not their fault. It's ours. We scrape and bow to their sporting culture like so many Commonwealth countries before us. We buy their newspapers and we subscribe to their television. Some of you even travel to watch their teams.

The death of Welsh culture has long been predicted, but if it happens, it won't be a case of murder, it will be suicide.


Martin Davies said...

A good point, your Redness, and moderately made. The English, as you correctly summarise, are blissfully unaware of our sensibilities. Your example of Next is more to do with homogenous corporate ignorance than hostile intent. I don't imagine they'll sell many England branded goods in Bangor anyway, not with England getting thrashed at every team sport at the moment and Beckham about to get a Knighthood as a very public retirement present from a retiring Tony Blair. (Only kidding!)

My take, as one who flits back and forth between Wales, England and further afield, is that English culture is in terminal decline while ours is gently ascendant. I am still happily surprised every time I hear fashionable young people speak Welsh to each other out of choice on the streets of Cardiff, an event that’s commonplace now but something you’d rarely hear when I was a kid. Yet in a North London supermarket nowadays, you are more likely to hear people speaking a first language other than English.

Eid and Diwali are now the dominant autumn festivals across affluent swathes of North London as Bonfire Night pales into insignificance, along with English history.

Language is indeed the key to identity and it’s worrying that the use of Welsh is declining within Welsh speaking communities, particularly in the Gogledd. This is more likely to be to do with increased access to broadcast media and, therefore, exposure to American, rather than English, cultural imperialism.

I have high hopes of the launch of Y Byd and I understand that Golwg is going from strength to strength elsewhere. Then again, look at the massive contribution to Welsh identity made by S4C, even if it does suffer from budget-related quality issues from time to time.

The great R S Thomas tried to get us to see that we are our own worst enemies. Yet he also wrote,

“When we have finished quarrelling for crumbs
Under the table, or gnawing the bones
Of a dead culture, we will arise
And greet each other in a new dawn
Armed, but not in the old way.”

I think the timing is now about right and my strategy for helping to bring about this outcome is to make being Welsh and speaking Welsh fashionable, something the English cannot do. This strategy has been implemented in my business and time will tell if young Welsh people are ready to buy into it.

In the meantime, I don’t think Welsh culture will die, far from it. I see it beginning to refresh and mutate from an ancient culture, hidebound by lack confidence and national unconsciousness, into something vibrant and modern and strident and bold. It will ultimately be much admired and respected across the border and throughout the wider world.

Cymru am byth! Fi godwn ni eto!

Anonymous said...

Hang on, we're missing an important point here. What were you doing in Next?!

Eric the Red said...

Well Scott, Woodies was a bit far away on a Friday afternoon.

Martin Davies said...

Do you still go to Woodies (when you can get there)? I thought everyone went to Droogies now.

If you've got a pair of jeans and some underwear, we've got everything else you really need at The Red Dragonhood. And we'll mail it to Bangor too!