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Author defends calling Wales a ‘vowel-hungry principality’ in Telegraph column

17 Aug 2021 4 minute read
Daily Telegraph. Inset: Kathy Lette’s column

An Australian-born author has defended calling Wales a “vowel-hungry principality” in a column for the Telegraph.

Kathy Lette, who has written 20 books, came under fire for the article in which she said she had “nothing but praise for the wonders of Wales, despite the horrors of the local lingo”.

The attempt at humour is based on the incorrect assumption that the Welsh language has fewer vowels than English, when it in fact has more. The claim that Wales is a “principality” is also incorrect.

In response to criticism, she said that it is “actually a very positive piece about Wales” and accused one critic of having a “humour failing”.

In the column Lette writes about a trip to Wales as a replacement for a hoped return to the New South Wales where she was brought up.

She describes her reaction when her editor tasks her with taking a holiday in Pembrokeshire.

Her vowel comments sparked a fierce reaction on social media.

Leading media law expert David Banks said: “A shame that no-one on the @Telegraph subs desk knew that Welsh has more vowels than English, would have stopped her looking silly.

“The problem with @telegraph running that line is that: 1. We’ve heard it before, countless times, it’s not original, if it was ever funny it’s not any more 2. Anyone Welsh reading it will think Lette is silly for saying it and the Telegraph are idiots for publishing it.”

Pamela Koehne-Drube said: “I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed that a fellow Aussie denigrates Welsh culture for the sake of a few cheap laughs.

“Rest assured, she does not speak for all of us, and as a Pembrokeshire resident myself, Wales gets nothing but praise.”

Ian Titherington said: “She actually enjoys the experience, but jumps on the prejudice bandwagon about our language.

“It’s obviously for her Torygraph audience, but it always surprises me when apparently intelligent people, display their ignorance & intolerance of other cultures – to the world”.

Tracey Jones said: “Jesus wept. I’m glad she was converted but I am so so tired of this constant Wales bashing.”

Nic Llan said: “It’s all grist for the mill in showing people how we’re not valued in this union, we’re barely tolerated.”

David Llewellyn said: “Why do we have to put up with this ignorant nonsense. Would she describe Spanish or Portuguese similarly?”

Julie Thorne said: “More cheap shots at the language. I’m not a Welsh speaker but this sort of s*** is getting a bit tired now.”

‘Mount your high horse’

In response to criticism Lette said: “So sorry you have had a humour failing on this one. No need to mount your high horse and gallop iff (sic) into the sunset. I love Wales. As the piece says. If you read it. So cheer up, possum.

“It’s actually a very positive piece about Wales. I loved it.”

In her column she says: “Pembrokeshire? In Wales? That vowel-hungry principality, which acts as a wind buffer between the Atlantic and England? I cackled like a kookaburra.

“But my editor would not be deterred; nor would my Celtic boyfriend, who had nothing but praise for the wonders of Wales, despite the horrors of the local lingo.”

She added: “Two of my favourite Aussie pals, Kylie Minogue and Julia Gillard, are both of Welsh extraction, so I was obviously going to get along with the locals, despite their vowel-transplant.”

Kathy Lette is a novelist and writer who was brought up in Sydney, New South Wales before moving to the UK in 1988 and taking full British citizenship in 2011.

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2 years ago

Look at what you get for Googling her and realise that this dope uses pubicity and contrarianism where real people use oxygen. Just turn off the tap.

2 years ago
Reply to  Richard

I sensed as much when I saw the comment that she – “accused one critic of having a “humour failing”. That is one of the default settings of people who can offer no other coherent defence.

2 years ago

When my father died we submitted a Notice and Obit to the local paper, the Western Mail and the Telegraph in Welsh and English. The former two accepted both without comment. The Telegraph refused the Welsh submission stating they only print in English. This policy cost them over £1000. One phone call to Huw Edwards or the London Welsh would have found a translator to confirm the text was genuine.

2 years ago
Reply to  Eddy

One phone call to Huw Edwards or the London Welsh would have found a translator to confirm the text was genuine.


Or to me or any of my colleagues at CIoL, ITI or Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru … 🙂

We’ve been here before – do you recall the Arch Vulcan refusing to sign anything with Cymraeg in it when he was Viceroy General under the Major Government?

2 years ago

Part of this ignorant rubbish about the Welsh language stems from the fact that 99% of the population knows nothing about phonemics
and cannot dfferentiate between vowels as phonetic entities and the symbols used to represent them in the orthography of any given language.
I don’t know how many vowels there are in English or Welsh off hand but it is certainly more than five in English and seven in Welsh.
You simply cannot constuct human speech without vowels. That is true for ALL languages.

2 years ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Standard Northern Welsh – 13 vowel phonemes
Standard Southern Welsh – 11 vowel phonemes

Standard RP English – 12 vowel phonemes

(Not counted above are diphthongs.)

For more info.

Number of phonemes (vowels, consonants) by language in Europe – Linguistics – Eupedia

2 years ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Diolch am hyn.
Diddorol iawn

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