An Englishman walks into a pub…
…and the pub is in Wales and when he asks for a drink in English everyone in the pub starts speaking in Welsh.
Sigh. Here we go again. How many times have you heard this? I heard it again, recently, on distant shores, from a man I’ll call Matthias. An artist, a seasoned traveller, far from inexperienced and unintelligent, and yet he came out with this nonsense. Think, Matthias: think.
Let’s have a look at this claim, shall we? Let’s break it down a wee bit:
How do you know they weren’t speaking in Welsh prior to you entering the pub, Matthias? Ah, I see, they were speaking English when you went in but they lapsed into Welsh when they heard you ordering your drink in English, so that you’d feel unwelcome and excluded from entering their company.
So that means that you were the only monoglot English speaker in the pub, right? How many people were in this pub? And it’s odd how many times this has happened to English people when, in the thousands of times I’ve been in Welsh pubs and an English person has entered either alone or in company, the clientele has never, not once, changed the tongue in which they were conversing.
If they were communicating with each other in English, then, believe me, they would have continued doing so when you entered, Matthias, and the same for Welsh. They were using the language in which they could clearly express themselves, and they would have stuck with that regardless of your presence.
Would you be affronted if you went into a bar in France and the patrons were speaking French? Those bilingual roadsigns that appeared when you crossed the border just beyond Shrewsbury, did they not give you some kind of clue? Would you enter a bar in, say, Spain or Germany, without learning the rudiments of the language, even just ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’? You wouldn’t? Well, then. You would? Well, then.
And you say that the Welsh language is dying out? Really? That’s surprising, given the amount of times that English people have entered a Welsh pub and heard Welsh being spoken. Both of those claims cannot be simultaneously true, Matthias, can they?
Do they do it constantly, do you think, every time they go for a drink? Is it pre-planned? Before they leave their houses, do they have a checklist – housekeys, cash, vape, intention to piss off any Englishman that may enter the pub? At what age did they start doing this?
And did you enter the pub on your own, Matthias? Did you want to speak to the people already in there, or did you have your own company with whom you could shoot the breeze? If you did, then why carp? And if you didn’t, and you entered the bar with the sole intention of meeting new people, why didn’t you speak to them in English? After all, by your assertion, Welsh people are happier conversing in English anyway, right? They must be, if that’s the language they were using before you went into the pub. Evidently, Welsh is a language primarily used to discombobulate outsiders in public spaces, right?
And did they revert to English when you left the pub, Matthias? Did you eavesdrop at the window to hear them do so? Is that what happened? If yes, then what on earth is wrong with you?
See, here’s the thing: it’s not all about you. You’re not that important. When you’re in a bar in England with your pals and you’re absorbed in the telling of tales and the recounting of experiences and the great big Now of companionship and conversation, do you even notice who enters the pub, much less notice how they place their order? No? Then why do you believe that others do? And if yes, then I’ll repeat the question: what on earth is wrong with you?
It’s bullshit, Matthias, isn’t it? It didn’t happen, either to you or to the others who assert that it did. It’s an anecdote designed to portray the Welsh, in their own land, as exclusionary and stand-offish and rude and insular and small-minded, which begs the question: why are you visiting? A national culture is embodied in its people and their languages, so what draws you here?
Natural beauties are nothing without the folk that inhabit them. And okay, for arguments sake, let’s say it did happen, and that what you recount truly was your direct experience; why does it upset you so? Is your sense of identity so needy for validation? The other drinkers were speaking in a language you didn’t understand, so what? Didn’t you have a book, a phone, your own thoughts, your own observational intrigues, with which to occupy yourself? Is that why you go into pubs alone – to be noticed?
And there’s the issue: the world revolving around the vortex of what it is to be English, or the delusional belief that this is so. You also told me, Matthias, that you’d recently taken on French citizenship and oh how you railed against Brexit and the English exceptionalism that drove it and then you came out with the pub anecdote and I heard a whoosh as the word ‘irony’ zoomed over your head, with ‘self-awareness’ on its tail.
And, just a suggestion, but maybe you could learn a bit of the language of the country whose pubs you frequent? Just a smidgen? It’d make things a lot more pleasant for everyone involved, wouldn’t it?
Nawr. Croeso i’r dafarn, Matthias. Cymera sedd. Peint?
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