Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why I simply cannot pronounce Welsh

Standing, l-r: Callum James. Dave Bonta.
Seated, l-r: Damian Walford Davies, Ian Hamilton
who read for the late Catriona Urquhart, Andrea Selch,
Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and Marly Youmans.
The reading at Aberystwyth University Art Centre
for The Book of Ystwyth: Six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins.
Photo from Clive's Artlog.
One of the challenges of reading a poem with Welsh words in it was sounds so strange they reminded me of a cat with hairballs. Then there's that weird sound where you blow air from each side of your mouth at once...

Anyway, the following sums up why a goodly amount of fiery (yes, I have raging Welshmen and Welshwomen in my family tree, revolters from British rule, heroes and heroines of the wild, wild Southern end of the American Revolution) Welsh blood in my veins does not help me to pronounce. 

You may or may not know that there is a hymn tune called Llanfair. In the states, a popular hymn to that tune is "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," a song often heard at Easter. The name of the tune comes from the first two syllables of a Welsh village, Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogery-chwyrndobwllantysiliogogogoch. I am sorely, sorely afraid that I missed a pair of l's while copying that down... The name means something like this: The Church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel near the fast-running whirlpool of the church of St. Tysillio beside the red cave.

Now that is wondrous and beautiful and a poem of a name but impossible, isn't it?

10 comments:

  1. Glad you've had a marvellous time in Wales, and glad I'm not the only one who cannot pronounce Welsh! Good thing your readings were in English, eh. Looking forward to more stories and photos though I've been following it at Clive's blog. I think I've turned a slightly green shade and not just from our damp spring...

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  2. One pronounces Welsh as one would pronounce 'Well she' but without the e sound.
    There, cleared up now : )

    My sympathies are with you Marly (and Maja-Leena too!). Welsh is the language that washing machines would speak if they had a language and could speak.
    When I see Welsh written out I just can't help searching for anagrams. When I hear it spoken I can't help searching for ear-plugs.
    But Wales is beautiful, and the Welsh sing beautifully.
    With long words.

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  3. I came a cropper with Rydderch...

    Yes, Welsh is lovely!

    Would say more, but I am on the road between Cullowhee and Cooperstown.

    Was that Paul?

    marja-leena,

    Yes, the Artlog is doing a good job! As always. But I'll have my own little bit to come. See you then...

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  4. Family travelers once sent a postcard from "that" town with the name taking up the entire length of the bottom of the card. Baffling.

    Wonderful to see a post again and looking forward to tales and photos.

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  5. Harrisonburg, VA on the road

    Hi zephyr--

    Just waiting for my eldest to finish eating pancakes! Shall be home tonight and then picking up the middle child at college and then home for a bit, hurrah! And shall post my wonders from Wales...

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  6. Somehow I missed this, and also missed Wales when I was in the British Isles. Don't know whether I'll ever pass that way again. Perhaps when I am teaching writing on a cruise ship or something.

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  7. I adored Wales and got lots of invitations to go to Cardiff! Now if somebody will give me a large pot of money... But they don't, you know, they don't!

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  8. You won't believe this, but I actually have a bumper sticker that reads:

    Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerchwyrndobwllantysiliogogogoch

    You should see the people sitting behind me at intersections,craning their necks and looking befuddled!

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  9. You won't believe this, but I actually have a bumper sticker that reads:

    Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerchwyrndobwllantysiliogogogoch

    You should see the people sitting behind me at intersections,craning their necks and looking befuddled!

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  10. Anita, clearly I need to go back and get one!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.