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Ordnance Survey corrects official names policy document after Yr Wyddfa misspelling blunder

28 Jan 2022 5 minute read
Photo by Nikolay Dimitrov on Unsplash

Ordnance Survey has corrected an official names policy document after a blunder in which it misspelled Yr Wyddfa.

The British mapping agency had come under fire after it spelled the tallest mountain in Wales, which is known as Snowdon in English, as Yr Wydffa.

The policy document went through five drafts between July 2014 and February 2015, before the first version was published in June 2015.

Following a backlash on social media in response to the misspelling, as well as an article about the error being published on Nation.Cymru, the document was amended.

Its change history now includes an update for January 2022. Under the Summary of change it refers to “Minor corrections” being made.

In response to the misspelling, social media expert Owen Williams had asked the mapping agency “does anyone sense-check or spellcheck your ‘Names Policy’ documentation?”

He added: “Because this is pretty egregious…”

Ordnance Survey replied saying: “Thank you Owen. We have updated the policy here:” It included a link to the names policy page on its website.

The misspelling of Yr Wyddfa was previously in the section under the heading of Definitions, which explains the agency’s policy with regards to places with more than one proper name in different languages.

Under the heading of Introduction, Ordnance Survey says its names are “recognised as being the authoritative geographical names of Great Britain.”

In the Proper names section it states that “consistent usage” of the names is “important to allow unambiguous identification of places and avoid confusion”.

In the Definitions section, the official Ordnance Survey names policy states: “Proper name – A proper name is that given to a feature, building or place to distinguish it from other features or places of a similar nature.

“Descriptive text – This describes the nature of a feature. For example track, path, cairn.

Before it was corrected the document said: “Alternative proper name – Some features have more than one proper name. These are sometimes in the same language, for example, Blencathra or Saddleback, but most frequently in another language, as in Snowdon or Yr Wydffa.”

It adds: “Vernacular name – A vernacular name is a local nickname or slang name, for example, The Pregnant Pin rather than the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.”

‘No national names authority’

The Introduction of the document states: “There is no national names authority in Great Britain. Instead, the geographical names as portrayed on hard‑copy and digital products of the national mapping agency – Ordnance Survey – are recognised as being the authoritative geographical names of Great Britain.

“The collection of consistent, definitive and authoritative descriptive annotations and proper names/postal numbers of buildings, places and features forms part of the public task of Ordnance Survey.

“This document outlines the policy applied to the capture and recording of proper names within the National Geographic Database. These names are then made available to consumers through products and services.”

Under the heading of Proper names, the document says: “Consistent usage of proper names is important to allow unambiguous identification of places and avoid confusion among users.

“This is all the more important when names are used as identifiers in computerised systems. In making decisions as to what name to record in respect of a place, street or building, Ordnance Survey is guided primarily by local usage and custom.

“It makes enquiries and consults appropriate authorities in order to establish, with as much authority as possible, the most suitable name, form, and spelling for all places shown. This is important with names of geographical features as there is no other recognised authority within Great Britain for these.

“Sometimes, more than one name is in use at local level for a single feature, and in cases where the use of two names is sufficiently prevalent locally it may be necessary to record and/or portray both. The final decision on the recording and publication of any name rests with Ordnance Survey.”

‘Usually captured in English’

Under the heading of Proper names in an alternative language, it states: “Names are usually captured in English although there are occasions when it is appropriate to capture names in another language. Great Britain is a culturally diverse country and many languages are spoken, with the vast majority spoken in addition to English.

“The production of maps, services and products in English only, does not therefore prevent users from understanding the information.

“The Welsh Language Act 1993, the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 give these languages special recognition under UK, Welsh and Scottish law.

“Where these languages are in common use (Welsh throughout Wales and Gaelic within the Outer Hebrides and Highlands), Ordnance Survey will dual name features when both names are accepted and in local use.

“With all names there needs to be evidence of active use of a name. Ordnance Survey will not record translations of English
names into alternative languages, or vice-versa, in the absence of such evidence.

“It is worth noting that there are many examples where the name is just shown in Welsh or Gaelic as this is the accepted name.”


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Grayham Jones
10 months ago

It’s the people of wales to blame for letting it Apends we in wales have got to stop being little and be proud to be welsh kick all English party’s out of wales that’s the Tories Labour and all Brexit party’s it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

G Horton-Jones
G Horton-Jones
10 months ago

The article by the Ordnance survey uses the words British and Great Britain whenever they mean England

G Horton-Jones
G Horton-Jones
10 months ago

Welsh names can however be altered into Swahili without question if wanted by non Welsh persons or organisations

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