Google cockupiaith

The County of Monmouthshire is well known to be confused as to its national identity. From the Norman Conquest until the 16th century it was part of the Welsh Marches – a kind of geographical no-mans-land, under local feudal barons (the Marcher Lords). After 1542, it was created as a distinct county and added to the rest of Wales by Henry VIII. Nevertheless, it retained a very English identity – especially those parts of the county lying to the east of the River Usk.

The accent of the county varies hugely, from a definite South Wales (and therefore, Welsh) accent, to a very peculiar tongue as you approach the English border. The place-names are also heavily Anglicised, both in spelling and pronunciation, from Welsh originals. “Wenglish”, a curious mix of English and Welsh, is also not unknown. (It’s a kind of equivalent to “Franglais”, the language many Brits speak when in holiday over the English Channel – or if you’re French, La Manche).

Those of us who remember when all the Welsh county names (and boundaries) were changed in 1974 and then changed back again in 1996 can well understand that residents of Monmouthshire would get confused, after they had spent 22 years in Gwent, which was once also the name of the ancient Kingdom of Gwent which covered this part of Wales between the 6th and 11th centuries. People in East Monmouthshire are just plain confused as to which country and county they are in.

However, to add to their troubles, you will find that if you look at this part of the world on Google Maps, the nice people at Google have tried to be culturally sensitive in the marking of the border between England and Wales. They’ve marked the English side of the border “England”. They’ve marked the Welsh side of the border in what they deem to be the local language, so it’s marked, “An Bhreatain Bheag”. This language is Gaelic: spoken in Ireland and Scotland. Not Wales. The local language spoken in Wales is called “Welsh”. So the residents of Monmouthshire now have to contend with the fact that their side of the county border with England is marked in Gaelic. So are they now English, Scottish, Irish, or (just perhaps) Welsh?

The Welsh for “Wales” is “Cymru”.

“An Bhreatain Bheag”, apparently, is Gaelic for “Little Britain”.

Are Google trying to tell the Welsh something here? Or is it just the influence of one particular character in the BBC comedy series?


Doug Gay 06/03/09 - 3:43 pm

Well at least we will know where you are…

Gayle 07/03/09 - 6:12 pm

ideal location – nice and handy for motorway and great views?
in case you forget where i am try this link

Gayle 07/03/09 - 6:13 pm

well that link didn’t work as that is where you will live !!

Charles Read 11/03/09 - 10:57 pm

Paul – that map shows you living in a field. Do you have a tent? I do think this is taking pioneer ministry a bit far.

Hope the job is gong well though!

andii 17/03/09 - 6:55 pm

Double irony if your translation of the Gaelic is right. If I mistake not, the pronunciation of ‘bheag’ is likely to be ‘big’.
Iechyd da, ffrind.

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