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‘Swahili isn’t a threat to Welsh’: Telegraph gets wrong end of the stick in Hakuna Matata row

03 Feb 2022 4 minutes Read
Left, the Telegraph’s article, and left, Hakuna Matata on the Ordnance Survey map.

The Telegraph newspaper has waded into the row around the Ordnance Survey deleting the Welsh name of a farm and replacing it with ‘Hakuna Matata’.

According to the newspaper, the Welsh should have “no worries” about the place name change from Banc Cornicyll as “Swahili has never been seen as a threat to the Welsh language, and it would be silly to let it start being seen as one now”.

The original furore began due to concerns that the Ordnance Survey was changing its maps to erase Welsh place names that may be hundreds or thousands of years old.

The comedian Tudur Owen had accused Ordnance Survey of collaborating in “deleting and replacing” Welsh place names.

But the Telegraph said: “Many know the phrase hakuna matata. It means “no worries” (for the rest of your days), according to the Elton John and Tim Rice song in the animated film The Lion King.

“But it does worry some Welsh nationalists, because a Carmarthenshire woman has used it as the name of her house.

“The locality used to be known in Welsh as Banc Cornicyll, Lapwing Bank, which no longer figures on the Ordnance Survey map. “We need legislation to protect Welsh place names,” declared one language campaigner.

“But can laws guarantee the memory of lapwings? It’s not a question of a democratic weight of numbers.

“Hakuna matata is Swahili, a language with 200 million speakers; Welsh has a million. Yet Swahili has never before been seen as a threat to the Welsh language, and it would be silly to let it start being seen as one now.”

Radio Cymru presenter Aled Hughes took to social media to sarcastically thank the Telegraph for their intervention.

Thank you for this wonderful editorial comment from your newsroom in London Telegraph – your understanding of a situation here, as always, is second to none,” he said.

Another user responded: “Daft thing to print. If there are Cymraeg placenames in Southern Africa which replace Swahili ones, I think most of us would support their removal if Swahili speakers complained.”

‘Tradition’

The change from Banc Cornicyll to Hakuna Matata sparked a furious response on social media, and has led to calls for legislation to protect Welsh place names.

In response to the outrage, Ordnance Survey said: “Thanks for your tweet. Ordnance Survey’s remit is to capture the names of buildings and places that are currently in use. We can confirm that this name has been inputted in accordance with our Names Place policy which can be found here.

But comedian Tudur Owen replied: “Sobering to know that if an individual adheres to their ‘names policy’, the Ordnance Survey will not only sanction, but will collaborate in deleting and replacing our place names. You are literally wiping our language, history and culture off the map. Yma o hyd?”

Map. List of Historic Place Names

The owner of the house has since responded to the row, saying that the house had the name Hakuna Matata when she bought it, and that she would have kept the original Welsh name, Banc Cornicyll, had she known about it.

According to the owner, a house was built on the site of the farm a quarter of a century ago, and it was given the name Hakuna Matata at that time.

Sarah Davies told the Newyddion news programme on S4C: “Obviously if we’d known there was a historic name here, I see no reason to be trashing any kinds of traditions, and we would have stayed with that name.

“My family, my husband’s family are all Welsh speaking. We wouldn’t have wanted to lose that tradition. But it was just never shown on any of the maps or anything we bought from.”


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Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
3 months ago

Trust the Torygraph to get it completely wrong.

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
3 months ago

“Obviously if we’d known there was a historic name here, I see no reason to be trashing any kinds of traditions, and we would have stayed with that name.”

So change it back.

Where’s the problem?

Richard 1
Richard 1
3 months ago

Yes, change it back. The cost of doing so varies between local authorities but wasn’t more than about £30 in Powys when we changed a pointless English name to “Tryweryn” two years ago. £5 pledged now if Sarah Davies wants help.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
3 months ago

So either they are deliberately twisting the truth or they really are as thick as pigsh1t.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
3 months ago

So the english nationalists won’t mind if we in Wales start labeling some of the towns and cities in England with their German names?

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

If Sarah Davies is up for correcting the name then I too am up for £5 towards whatever it costs. I don’t know if she does read NC but if so, please set up a Crowdfunder Sarah, tell NC’s editor and when the news comes out we will all pile in and fund the change. After all this is Wales and we all try to help each other.

Solva boy
Solva boy
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Nats are too tight to spend money. Cardi’s et al.

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