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An Englishman walks into a pub…

05 Mar 2023 5 minute read
Cheers! by gemma.amor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Niall Griffiths

…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.

Bilingual

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?

Rude

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?

Delusional

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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DR MENNA ELFYN
26 days ago

love this Niall – spot on as usual. MX

Niall
Niall
25 days ago
Reply to  DR MENNA ELFYN

Diolch Menna!

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
26 days ago

We should call negative, anti-Welsh comments for what they are: racism!

Katy
Katy
25 days ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Xenophobia, prejudice and bigotry, I’d say. I don’t think Welsh is a race.

Riki
Riki
25 days ago
Reply to  Katy

There can be genetic distinction within Races, almost to the point where you could argue there is. For example, within Wales itself, The North Walians are distinct from their Southern Kin, as both are to the English and Irish. And yes, you can be racist to your own. You only have to see the delusion by some white people who believe that all white people are inherently racist.

CJPh
CJPh
26 days ago

I’ve heard a similar one regarding crossing the bridge over the Hafren: “Once I saw the bilingual road signs, I was instantly lost/confused – it’s dangerous!” That’s why the multi-lane area when you get through the Channel Tunnel or off a ferry are veritable car graveyards, with piles of vehicles smoldering away. What with the 5 or 6 languages on display, how can the EU justify such murderous befuddling? If you can’t read your own language on a sign, you may not be fit to drive. Further, surely it would be more confusing for those of us who do speak… Read more »

Keith Gogarth
Keith Gogarth
26 days ago

God help him if he went into an Indian Restaurant and complained about the waiters speaking Hindi or another language. He would be arrested and vilified! But there is nothing new about this attitude; I remember as a kid in the 50s overhearing the parents of recently arrived school friend complaining that porters at Holyhead station were speaking Welsh

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
26 days ago

Clywch, clywch! Weithiau mae angen mwy o amynedd na sy’ ‘da fi…

Mawkernewek
26 days ago

How does the English speaker walking into a pub with people speaking Welsh in it, know what language they were speaking beforehand?
Or even whether he existed at all before walking into the pub, and that he isn’t just an extremely improbably quantum wave-function fluctuation that randomly created himself, what theoretical physicists call a Boltzmann Brain?

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
26 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Maybe he’s a Schrödinger’s Englishman.

Simultaneously, both outside AND inside the pub!

Niall
Niall
25 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

😆😆

Iago Prydderch
Iago Prydderch
26 days ago

This is just as much as a myth as the myth where everyone switched language. You never hear of a Scottish or Irish person walking into a pub and saying this. Has anyone really heard an English person saying it? This is just one of those made up stories to stir up the Welsh – and we all know how easy that is! A lot of English people can speak Welsh or support the language and a lot of Welsh people don’t.

Dai
Dai
23 days ago
Reply to  Iago Prydderch

Sadly, it’s not unusual to hear similar anti-Welsh tropes from Scottish/Irish people. They view us through the prism of the English media.

Gruff Williams
Gruff Williams
20 days ago
Reply to  Iago Prydderch

I have heard this supposed experience recoubted many times.

Niall
Niall
15 days ago
Reply to  Iago Prydderch

Yes, I heard an English person saying it. That’s why I wrote the article.

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
26 days ago

Every time I’ve been told this, I have challenged the person.
What pub and in what town?

Funnily enough, they cannot remember these simple things.
They cannot remember where in Wales they were so outrageously insulted.

Funny that.

Lorraine Morris
Lorraine Morris
26 days ago

Absolutely brilliant. 😅😅

John
John
25 days ago

They all started speaking Welsh: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ5DzMmBuwQ

CapM
CapM
25 days ago

A theory I have to explain this is that everyone who speaks Welsh can also speak English and this bilingualism in Cymru doesn’t result in conversations that are 100% Welsh or 100% in English but whichever language being used in a conversation words and phrases of the other will be used as well. We are naturally tuned into the language we converse in so in the case of a monoglot English speaker entering a pub they will initially pick up on English words and phrases being used by customers and assume the conversation they are hearing is in English. Then… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
25 days ago
Reply to  CapM

In any language in any land conversation is muted when a stranger walks in. It is more about whether the newcomer is a homicidal maniac than what language s/he speaks.

Y Llydawr
Y Llydawr
25 days ago

Does it work with Breton as well? If so, could you send as many Englishmen as you can there to revitalise our dying language? Diolch.

John Rogers
John Rogers
25 days ago

I am a Welsh speaker living in Spain and I have heard this assertion many times here. Normally by ex-pat English people who strangely enough cannot speak Spanish either but swear blind that Pedro, behind the bar, can speak fluent English but chooses not to so that he can deliberately spoil their night out !

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
16 days ago

[I am again on notice – in illiterate English – as ‘Awaiting for approval’. What the problem might be is the occult province of some algorithmic mumbo-jumbo. I may be banished by a mere wave of the digital wand.]

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
16 days ago

Perhaps this will propitiate the Editorial Algorithms: I think we all know of some English person who has complained of Welsh people who were either talking in Welsh conspiratorially behind their backs, or refusing to speak English. This is the paranoia of particularly stu pid representatives of England, who have failed to grasp the shared yet often difficult history of this Island. It is their attempt to bluster in plain embarrassment at coming to a place they’d always assumed to be part of England but that they suddenly find feels quite foreign. Too stu pid to rationalise their nervousness at… Read more »

Niall
Niall
15 days ago
Reply to  Philip Davies

Yes, it happened. Matthias opened his mouth and those words came out.

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
16 days ago

Its a bit thick when some intrusive algorithm decides one can’t use an author’s vulgarism when quoting him, thus putting one’s comment into Editorial Purgatory for having repeated the very solecism that was permitted when the article was published! ‘B*lls**t’ I call it.

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