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Student ‘upset’ after being ‘jeered at’ during research project because of his Welsh name

25 Oct 2021 3 minute read
Students brainstorming over paper. Photo credit Scott Graham. Unsplash

A student has said he was “really upset” after being jeered at during a research project because of his Welsh name.

Llŷr Williams, 27, who studies translation, said he was asked how his name was pronounced while taking part in a Zoom call.

According to Llŷr, after pronouncing his name he was told “I could never say that, thank goodness you’re not in my group” by a fellow participant in the call.

Following the Zoom call he said that his name doesn’t make him a “difficult person” and that he should not be “instantly treated as a problem”.

Llŷr spoke about the incident on an impassioned Twitter thread which went viral, saying: “Took part in a zoom call as part of some research yesterday. I was asked how my name was pronounced, after which the chair said ‘I could never say that, thank goodness you’re not in my group’, before jeering at a colleague that I was in her group. It actually really upset me.

“I get it. Llŷr is hard to pronounce. But it doesn’t make me a difficult person. I shouldn’t be instantly treated as a problem. Especially when I say my name is tricky to pronounce and that I’m understanding when people say ‘Leer’ or something similar. I always appreciate effort.

“Yesterday was the first time in a while it really got to me. Because on first impression I was instantly treated as a problem, and used by an individual to make out a colleague had drawn a short straw by having me in her group. Should I man up? Probably.”

‘Only ever seems to be a problem on these islands’

He added: “My name only ever seems to be a problem on these islands. Whilst most people here make the effort. It’s here I mostly get comments about how awkward, tricky, impossible, crazy etc it is; and sometimes that can really get to me. I very rarely hear the same things abroad.

“I always appreciate the effort no matter what comes out. Even if that means biting my tongue when a lecturer repeatedly called me ‘Kiwi’ (I have no idea either) or whatever else.

“I’m proud of my name. It connects me to Cymru Fach especially important to me now I live away.

“If someone has a name that’s unusual or difficult to pronounce, please be respectful. Please understand that what you say, even if it’s a joke, can be upsetting.

“Thanks to my name, every first impression I make involves a language lesson (one which I’ve learnt in 11 languages).”


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Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins
11 months ago

First off, Llyr is not hard to say!! That person is just an arrogant twit! Oops! I think I’ve misspelled that last word! I had a colleague named Ifan. Staff from London HQ would ring up asking to speak to IVAN. I would say we have nobody of that name here! Try again! Until they got it right! The thing is, eventually, they did get it right. It’s ignorance & laziness.

Katy Fowler
Katy Fowler
11 months ago

Do you mean they’d pronounce it IFFAN? Or am I getting Ifan wrong? 😕

Kirstie Edwards
Kirstie Edwards
11 months ago
Reply to  Katy Fowler

Ifan is pronounaced ‘Efan’ normally it’s mistaken for ‘I-van’
Hope this helps

Richard
Richard
11 months ago

I have a father called one and a grandson called the other ! They are NOT pronounced the same….

Being at lesst the 3rd Richard in this string ….. i can assure Llŷr thats its no fun being a Dick/Dic in onds school days 🙁

BobSnail
BobSnail
11 months ago

“Llŷr” is difficult for the English to pronounce. It’s easy for me as my Mum was from the Rhondda valley. I explain that the Welsh LL sounds similar to THL when said by an English-speaker. It’s not ideal but close and avoids the horrible “Clandudno” and such.

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  BobSnail

Anglos get many names wrong. The Swedes eventually pronounced Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg with hard G’s just to get through interviews!
(Try Bory and Edbery). Also Angela Murkle, Sar-cozy. Marseille(s)? Being from an anglo area I was guilty of the same, until a “foreigner” pointed this out, doh!

Saesnes1
Saesnes1
11 months ago
Reply to  BobSnail

I disagree I’m English, never had a problem. My compatriots just don’t listen when people speak

Meredith Tranter
Meredith Tranter
11 months ago

Even though there as no mention of the nationality of the…and I will use the right word…ABUSER in this instance, I will 100% confirm in my mind that it is the actions of the Sais.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago

You’re probably right, Meredith, although he doesn’t specify. A Welsh chairman/woman would sound ridiculous making an offensive comment about a Welsh name.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
11 months ago

Be of good cheer, Llŷr, I am also a translator and have had to put up with mispronunciations (and mis-spellings) of my first name over the years (usually by those of our eastern neighbours, ‘on these islands’). Unless there is malicious intent on their part, humour is a way of paying back in kind: Me: What’s the difference between me and Sean Connery? X: Dunno. Me: One’s an international sex symbol. X: Ok … Me: And the other a balding, lisping Scottish actor who used to play James Bond. [Boom! Tish!] X: Oh. Right. Also, Llŷr, remind your audience that… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Chapeau!

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Mercy buckets, @j humphrys! (THIS one – not the ex-Mastermind one …)

Last edited 11 months ago by Welsh_Siôn
Richard 1
Richard 1
11 months ago

Tell the knockers to go to Google Translate and type it in [https://translate.google.com/?sl=cy&tl=en&text=Ll%C5%B7r&op=translate]. It’s only four letters, so no real excuse and even if they can’t handle the to bach it’s pretty close. The sound is mechanical, which may be because it’s a machine, but the twerps have no excuse have they? Except ignorance and prejudice.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

It’s only THREE letters in Cymraeg – but four CHARACTERS 😉

Last edited 11 months ago by Welsh_Sion
Richard 1
Richard 1
11 months ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Well I’m English and ignorant. Working on the prejudice though.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

Croeso, Richard. I’m sure this will inspire you to learn yr hen iaith, too. 🙂

Tir Ion
Tir Ion
11 months ago

The term is callee microaggression, and it happens every day to Welsh people in interactions with ignorant people.

It’s very difficult to respond to microaggressions, especially in a large group. This behaviour has developed in the psyche of imperial cultures through years of ‘supremacy’ over marginalised groups.

Just laugh and think they’d have been using Llŷr if those bloody invaders hadn’t come over and changed the language!

Quornby
Quornby
11 months ago

I think the problem with our Eastern neighbours is that they feel excluded when they have spent their lives feeling entitled.

George Bodley
George Bodley
11 months ago
Reply to  Quornby

And exceptional

Paul
Paul
11 months ago

Says a great deal about the intellectual capacites of Mr. “I could never say that” … If a 3 letter word is beyond them.

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul

And don’t forget Mr. So-and-so is someone who prides himself with having mastery of language (well, presumably two in order to translate into his mother tongue – but no further).

Both Llŷr and me have the advantage of translating both into and from Cymraeg. I guess this old dinosaur can only work into Saesneg.

Last edited 11 months ago by Welsh_Siôn
Ed Jones
Ed Jones
11 months ago

If Welsh, we are expected to be desensitised to all and every barb thrown at us, well, enough is enough. Llyr is a beautiful name, all names are (ok I too am thinking of a few now ruined by their worst holders). Please report this person who mocked you, how dare they? Head up Llyr, yma o hyd a phob lwc!

Eifion
Eifion
11 months ago

That’s my daily experience, my name is in no way way difficult to pronounce but as soon as a British
person sees how it’s spelt they seem to go into convulsions.

But, for a person from India, the USA, Lithuania etc. they simply listen to how I pronounce it, repeat it and that’s it.

I think it’s linked in with the British unionists/nationalists view that Wales doesn’t really exist, it’s s just a kind of part of England.

defaid
defaid
11 months ago
Reply to  Eifion

I found the very same thing last year on Aran Fawddwy when a group of American walkers asked how the hill’s name is pronounced. One example was all they needed.

On the other hand, there are people who moved thirty years ago to my home town from the east side of the border and who still can’t pronounce the town’s name.

Roderich Heier
Roderich Heier
11 months ago
Reply to  defaid

Just out of sheer curiosity what’s your home town Defaid?

George Bodley
George Bodley
11 months ago
Reply to  defaid

Clearly no intention to integrate

George Bodley
George Bodley
11 months ago
Reply to  Eifion

Just a part of little england.Thatll be the day

Ann Corkett
Ann Corkett
11 months ago

Think of a good answer that will turn the laugh on them without appearing aggresive (which would show you’re rattled) and have it ready. And look at my surname. Perhaps you could try something on the lines of, “Well, enough of the schoolboy jokes; can we get on with business.?”

Ann Corkett
Ann Corkett
11 months ago

Forgot to add the quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Dafydd Huw
Dafydd Huw
11 months ago

Despite our advice our daughter,
Eurgain, chose to marry a partner from the other side of Offa’s dyke.
Pronunciation of Eurgain was a big problem for him and their English friends. At the wedding of about 100 guests, I explained the meaning and correct pronunciation. I added that when we named her we never believed that she would meet up with people who were unable to pronounce her name correctly. A massive cheer went up from the Welsh guests!!

Helen Richards
Helen Richards
11 months ago
Reply to  Dafydd Huw

When my son Emlyn was little, we went to see Father Christmas in London and although we had written his name clearly on a card was repeatedly called Emily! He wasn’t happy!

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
11 months ago
Reply to  Helen Richards

Wot no Emlyn Hughes? 😉

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
11 months ago

I find some who jeer at Welsh names are of low intellect, who themselves have non-native names like Michael. John. Peter ect… Ironic really. Native Welsh names are a link to our vast, and I mean vast, history on this island. The name Llŷr was mention by Shakespeare in his play, King Lear, although the name by this time had been corrupted by English scribes.. And Shakespeare sourced the legendary story about Lear from Geoffrey of Monmouth who in turn likely referred to dark age Welsh chroniclers like Gildas or Nennius about the famous Welsh King who founded the city… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Y Cymro
Huw Davies
Huw Davies
11 months ago

Some people just have a brain fart if they see a Welsh name. Or think they see a Welsh name. Years back there was a phone in fishing program live on the new satellite tv. The presenter said something like ‘Now we have a call from a viewer in…oh, it’s one of those unpronounceable Welsh names. How do you say it?’ The caller replied with a slightly bemused ‘Builth Wells’.

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
11 months ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

… and we all know how ‘unpronounceable’ some ‘English’ (place)names are as well, don’t we?

Slaithwaite, Marjoribanks, Herstmonceux, Cholmondley, Beauchamp, Worcester, Towcester, Beaulieu, Menzies, Belvoir, not to mention all those -ough endings

off the top of my head.

Eleri MAITLAND
Eleri MAITLAND
11 months ago

Oh I do so know the feeling and decided a long time ago to politely insist on people at least trying to say my lovely name -Eleri -right. We have beautiful names from a historic language. Cymru am byth.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson
11 months ago
Reply to  Eleri MAITLAND

Gorgeous name Eleri . Why didn’t I think of that when my daughter was born.

stub Mandrel
11 months ago

Not all English are rude and ignorant. Just some of them. I spent 40 years living in Englamd and being Welsh is to be part of an almost invisible minority, outnumbered by many other nationalities- Irish, Indian, Pakistani, Nigerian, Polish. Most really don’t understand that Welsh is an identity, not just a place.

Rich
Rich
11 months ago
Reply to  stub Mandrel

There are c*c oens in every country & this was clearly one example. That said, some names are clearly very difficult for English speakers to pronounce, Llyr being one. In Wales we are exposed to English language from an Early age so English names are not difficult for us to pronounce the converse is not true. Both Welsh and English often have problems pronouncing Irish or Scottish names as neither encounter them very often. I think if he’s to live and work in London, Llyr will have to develop a croen galed and accept there will always be a minority… Read more »

Gisbert
10 months ago
Reply to  stub Mandrel

Some stuff you hear in Wales is just bad grammar.”where by you to” a fella said to his mate in the store yesterday. You hear bad grammar everywhere though,…dont they isn’t it .

Last edited 10 months ago by Gisbert
Alayne Perrott
Alayne Perrott
11 months ago

Llyr is a beautiful name and English people like me just need to listen and try harder.

Emyr
Emyr
11 months ago

I used to have a spell checker which would try to change Llewellyn to ‘Well hung’

Andrew Davies
Andrew Davies
11 months ago

Goodness me. He’s managed to elevate your run of the mill snowflake into the ‘as hard as nails’ bracket.

Alun
Alun
11 months ago

I was raised in England, and English was the language of the hearth, although Dad’s first language was Welsh. When I got interested in Welsh at about the age of 10, and he began teaching me, we came across “Ll”. He told me to put my tongue against the roof of the mouth and blow around it. I did. Sorted. Simple. If a 10 year old who didn’t speak Welsh could learn the sound that quickly, there is really no excuse for grown ups.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
11 months ago
Reply to  Alun

And, of course, any good Scouser would easily learn words like chwech mochyn bach!

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

How do they get on with JS Bach?

Last edited 11 months ago by j humphrys
Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

The good lady here sings with “The Bark Choir” according to most of our neighbours down here. (Middle England.)

Woof! Woof!

Paul12345
Paul12345
11 months ago

My nephew is a Ieuan growing up in Brixton.
Nurseries and teachers have struggled.

Gareth
Gareth
11 months ago

An English manager, at a plant where I worked, once asked me to give some work to a production operative called Maya. I had only been working there a short time. Several times I said we don’t have a Maya, he left the office to point at a girl named Mair.

Peter MacCabe
Peter MacCabe
11 months ago

There’s such a thing as anti English racism from the Welsh. But that’s never reported on.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O'Connor
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter MacCabe

Because it hardly happens these days. Unless you’re one of those who begrudge conversations between other people (I.e. nothing to do with you) being held in welsh. English people have often taken umbrage at myself and my daughters communicating in Welsh. The entitlement!!

Eira
Eira
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter MacCabe

Christ, you wetwipe.

Gareth
Gareth
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter MacCabe

But it just banter, get a sense of humour.
Does that sound familiar.

Scoobie
Scoobie
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter MacCabe

Tell me about it!! I’ve been on the wrong side of the Welsh for 40 years…… I had a stroke at 27 it affected my understanding of speech and therefore cannot repeat what I hear, I’m just branded ignorant English. I never had a problem with my name until a cartoon with a similar name came to the UK, now almost everyone spells my name wrong…..it’s Scoobie….IE not Y….. I was here before the dog….oooo that shows my age 🤣🤣🤣….. and it’s only in Wales the I get ‘is your surname Do? Surely you weren’t’ Christened that’ but I use… Read more »

Eira
Eira
11 months ago

Firstly, Llŷr is a beautiful name. Secondly, the imperialist attitude of anglos endures. As Welsh people, we need to recognise how closely tethered these microsgressions are to the colonist mindset. How many cultures across the world have had their names bastardised or erased by this language? It is important to pay attention to how awful and frustrating this level of disrespect and dismissal feels to us as natives of these isles, but to acknowledge and respect how much that is amplified when intersecting with racism and xenophobia for people of other cultures. Secondhand anecdote though it is, my close friend… Read more »

Llwynog Abertawe
Llwynog Abertawe
11 months ago

Poor Llŷr. As somebody with a hard-to-pronounce name, it can be embarassing when somebody doesn’t pronounce your name correctly – it’s worse when somebody doesn’t bother.
A lot of people call me ‘Rees’, though it isn’t my name.
It’s ironic that somebody that speaks two or more languages (assuming that by his being a lecturer in translation) would jeer at somebody for having somebody with a ‘foreign’ name (though, Welsh is Wales’ native language)

On the bright side, I’ve been getting along with pronouncing ‘Ll’ and ‘Rh’ since studying Welsh!

Erisian
Erisian
11 months ago

They can all f**c off and Dai

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago

This lack of familiarity with Welsh forenames on the part of our closest neighbours was highlighted by a guy called Iolo who sent an email to an office over the border. He got a reply addressed to “Dear One Zero One Zero”.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

In spite of the BBC having a very well know newsreader named Huw, I was recently approached, outside a Swansea supermarket, by an English employee of an energy company, to see if I might change supplier. To enter my name in her tablet, she tried Hugh, Hew, Hue and Hu but was amazed when I went H U W. “I’ve never seen that name before” she gushed. She looked around 28-33 ish sort of age. Every year I surprise somebody with my weird name!

Meredith Tranter
Meredith Tranter
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Yeah, I believe you.

Where in this article does this state that it was an “Anglo” ?

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago

That seems to be the implication. Doesn’t sound like a typical Welsh reaction.
Sorry to hear that you don’t believe the Iolo anecdote.

George Bodley
George Bodley
11 months ago

Report it as racial abuse im not surprised by their reaction little englander exceptionalist speakers are backward inward looking nothing new

Geraint Owen
Geraint Owen
11 months ago

I kind of think people need to stop being so soft these days. There was no real malicious behaviour in this story, just a joke where someone used humour to cover up their own mistakes etc. My names always been hard to pronounce for anyone outside of Wales but I take it for what it is, its certainly not an insult, just ignorance on their part. Snow flakes are falling far too often these days

Last edited 11 months ago by Geraint Owen
Christopher McKenzie
Christopher McKenzie
11 months ago

As an American born part Native American with proud Welsh ancestry,I get exactly where you’re coming from

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