Casual bigotry from Buzzfeed towards the Welsh language is a disgrace
Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
I can’t begin to explain how tiresome it is to have to respond to another stupid and bigoted cheap shot at Welsh speakers in the media.
Yet here we are, and no doubt we will be here again in the future. Being a Welsh speaker is a bit like Groundhog Day, only this time Bill Murray has to put up with casual xenophobia from morons, one day after another.
This time the offender is Natasha Jokic from Buzzfeed, the venerable news organisation known for hard-hitting articles such as “What Is Your Inner Potato?”, “19 Things Worse Than Finding Out That Beyoncé Lip-Synched The National Anthem” and “Which Possible Illuminati Member Are You?”.
Buzzfeed has actually produced a lot of journalism that I admire. Unfortunately, the journalists that produced it in the UK have recently been axed; presumably so the organisation can focus on what truly matters; creating more eye-roll-inducing listicles.
Take that inanity and add a sprinkle of prejudice towards Welsh speakers and voila, you have “Is This a Real Welsh Village Or Just Me Mashing My Keyboard?”. Clickbait doesn’t get much worse than this.
It said: “The premise of this quiz is simple: For each question, you have to determine if the town name is a real place in Wales or a series of letters cobbled together by randomly mashing my keyboard. Got it?”
Oh, I got it alright. The premise is rooted in prejudice towards Welsh speakers. This ‘joke’ isn’t new. It is profoundly unoriginal. It plays to an old trope that the Welsh language is mere gibberish. For centuries, the Welsh language has been portrayed as being of a lesser value than English. Because this view took hold, it was marginalised and elided from our institutions. Welsh speakers were treated like second class citizens in their own country, and still are in many ways.
This marginalisation coupled with dramatic changes in demography eroded the language and then pushed it into freefall. Newcomers were not motivated to learn Welsh in a country where it was afforded little status. Generations of Welsh speakers decided not to pass the language on to their children.
There has been a fightback since, but the future of the language is far from secure. It yet might perish. That is why the drip drip of poison is so dangerous. Anything that delegitimises or undermines the language is a threat to its future existence.
We’re are losing Welsh place names in Wales. Newcomers buy up houses in Welsh speaking areas and change the names from Welsh to something English. Houses are just one example of this erasure. It is also happening in our landmarks, and our historic sites. We are losing our indigenous culture because far too many the people who move here do not believe it is of any value. They believe that it is of lesser value of their own. It shows scant regard for local communities, and a lack of awareness of the damage being done.
Articles such as Jokic’s contribute to the climate that makes this seem acceptable. Her article portrays Welsh speakers as an inchoate breed, as less sophisticated than their English counterparts. It’s not all that different from sneering Anglo-supremacist jokes about the Irish being thick. It is rooted in the same conceit. The Scots are also well-used to similar derision. But cheap shots like Jokic’s are not only prejudiced. They are also very stupid. Come to think of it, I’m being too kind there. They’re moronic.
According to the article Rhosllanerchrugog doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Well yes it does actually, if you can speak Welsh. It certainly rolls right off mine. The statement to the contrary is a prime example of the parochial nature of Anglo-supremacist chauvinism. It is an inability to conceive of a world that exists beyond your own little bubble. It’s doubtful that Newcastle upon Tyne rolls of the tongue if the only language you know is Spanish or Italian. I can’t imagine that Piddletrenthide does either. But that is immaterial.
The fact is, any language is a system of patterns. The fact that you are unable to discern the pattern does not mean it does not exist. It’s a bit like sneering at Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and making out they’re dumb because you can’t read code.
This odd notion is at odds with the facts as linguists will tell you. In terms of composition, the Welsh language makes a lot of sense. One of the reasons for this is that the Welsh language is phonetic. The most famous of these linguists is Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien. In a 1955 lecture, the Professor of English Language and Literature said: “For many of us it rings a bell, or rather it stirs deep harp-strings in our linguistic nature. It is the native language to which in unexplored desire we would still go home.”
It is safe to say that Natasha has found herself among a set with a different ethos to Professor Tolkien with regards to the Welsh language. With her attack on it, she joins a veritable pantheon that includes professional swivel-eyed trolls Rod Liddle and Katie Hopkins. Good for her. I hope she enjoys the company.
Speaking out against this sort of thing does make a difference. Buzzfeed deleted a Tweet with the offending article and amended the article itself following a fierce backlash. But it should have been deleted entirely, and I have yet to see an apology.
When something like this happens, you will always get people trying to gaslight Welsh speakers. Nothing to see here they declaim. They are either unaware of or do not care about the marginalisation of Welsh speakers.
But the impact of Anglo-supremacist ideology is a pernicious one. In some Welsh schools we had the use of the Welsh Not where children were subjected to physical and psychological abuse by their teachers for having the temerity to speak their native tongue. The premise that the Welsh language was of lesser value than English underpinned the rationale for doing this.
It is very easy to be loftily dismissive of attacks on the Welsh language when your linguistic community has not been marginalised. It is easy to do so when it isn’t your culture that is under real threat of extinction.
No doubt I’ll be writing about how tiresome about all this is in the future after something like this happens again. And so around it goes. The seemingly endless cycle of anti-Welsh attacks. The culprits usually have no conception of how they come across to Welsh speakers. So, let me explain. You come across like David Brent, the uber-cringey boss in The Office. The jokes are old, tired, awkward, inane, out of place, and ultimately not funny.
Yet there you are, thinking you’re being an “entertainer”; unaware of just how clueless and pathetic it really is.
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Unfortunately I’m not a Welsh speaker but would love the language to flourish.i can not understand why we Welsh put up with this negativity about the language .which often comes from our own people who rather be ruled by our English masters . Why have we still accepted the Welsh not and not apologies from those who inflicted it upon us. It makes me laugh when people talk about the Great British empire ..this was just greed where other countries including Wales have been raped for the benefit of a nameless neighbouring country .at least the majority of these countries… Read more »
Pretty much agree with Gareth here, but did this really merit an op Ed? It may be tiresome for him to have to address this but that instinct should be afforded to the readership too. We need our own media, yes? Good, we’re agreed. Maybe our independent media shouldn’t focus on the way we’re treated in unionist media until a more egregious piece surfaces. Let’s get some more focus on growing the movement, how an independent Cymru could look, and boosting the bandwidth of heterodox, expert pro-indy voices. Gareth’s ire is legitimate but the article feels, well, a little Buzzfeed-y.
Cymru, know your enemies:
New York based churnalist specialising in pop culture and ‘entertainment’. Seems to know something about Civil Rights and LGBTI stuff – and yet can mock Cymraeg. A strange creature, indeed.
Come on, cut her a break, She is a child desperate for attention. Until 2018 she wrote for a Bath Spa student rag then took Daddy and Mummy’s credit card to New York to become an intern and has been with Buzzfeed for 5 minutes. The poor dear will never open her Twitter account again without trepidation and fear that the New York Welsh have again piled into her.
She has a 0.001% chance of becoming a journalist so have pity that she has bought the b******s and has a life of frustrated ambition ahead of her.
This sort of attitude towards the Welsh language and Wales as a whole has been going on so long it is just accepted and laughed at as a joke. However, I believe we will have the last laugh as we gain our independence and build a far better country for ourselves than the unfair, unequal UK we see today.
I SO HOPE YOU ARE RIGHT. BEST OF LUCK.
People take the p**s out of English spelling and place names occasionally, it’s a 3 second wonder. You really have to be a cretin to want to write that a country has places you find difficult to pronounce because you don’t speak the language and base an entire article on that slender fact. Don’t seem to see churnalists in English making the same comments about places in Russia and China or Ireland.
So tired of this Slander, its high time people woke up to the “Value” of the Wesh language and culture. It is very special and needs to be looked at in this manner. Shame on all of those ignorant racist fools!
It all goes back to the Blue Books Report of 1847, Brian, and it’s no exaggeration to say that its effects are still with us today, both in Wales and outsde it. In fact, Little Miss Jokic could have subtitled her article ‘Brad y Llyfrau Gleision for Dummies’. Google Blue Books Wales and you’ll see how she’s in that tradition.
I’ve noticed that Americans are almost without exception supportive of the Welsh language. Many thanks for that.
As a history buff, I think it’s amazing that Julius Caesar would have heard a similar language when he arrived 2,000 years ago and that the successors of that language are still spoken today. I don’t understand why English speaking Brits don’t think that’s cool, Celtic languages have been spoken in the British Isles literally for thousands of years, why continue to kill it off? They should take an active role in restoring it.
Appears even the solemn and sometimes jingoistic ‘Telegraph’ is prepared to take a rise out of England …
I have come to love all things Welsh and it derived from the wonderful & thought-provoking program called Hinterland. I feel your pain as I am part Native American. Let us hope more people see the value and “importance” of this great language as well as its history!
Fantastic comments (this one and the other 2 above). Diolch yn fawr iawn/Thank you very much Brian
Diolch o waelod calon for your support.
We can not fully assimilate the genocide suffered by Native Americans and therefore our situation in Cymru does not compare with the near-extermination of your peoples.
I am happy to extend the hand of friendship (post-Covid 19!) to yourself and hope we can maintain common cause against all those that oppress us.
There is a fine line between accepting a culture, respecting a culture, and assimilation. Should houses have names regardless of the wishes of their owners? It is always sad when local historic names are lost but it has been happening for centuries. You only have to look at tithe maps across the UK to note the evolution of field names, some survive, many have changed for various reasons. The same applies to house names and street names. The process is accelerated by urban development and demographic change. You cannot freeze a culture in aspic, people have to want it and… Read more »
Your comment calls to mind a lane a few miles from where I grew up which from time immemorial was known as ‘Dirty Lane’. Indeed I recall, a very great many years ago, having a teenage snigger when I read in our local paper of the conviction in the magistrates’ court of two men whom a curious police officer had observed doing certain things in a parked car which were even more illegal then than they are now. It seemed droll that they’d chosen that particular lane for their nocturnal activities! When I moved back to the land of my… Read more »
“The loss of local names is accelerated by urban development and demographic change.” In many cases in Wales this is driven by in migration from other parts of the UK. Whilst the indigenous people may want to preserve their language, history and culture there is nothing they can do about it as long as the in comers see it as nothing more than an inconvenience.
I am told the United Kingdom version of BuzzFeed is going to be closed down. I am not surprised.
Its been removed and changed to a generic quiz –
18 hours ago
This post has been changed from its original version to meet BuzzFeed’s editorial standards.
Dear Ms Jokic, Here’s a little quiz for you. With a Serbian background, you won’t find it too difficult. Can you guess which of these are Serbian places and which are just me mashing up my keyboard? I’ve tried to help you by using the Roman (and not Cyrillic) alphabet. I mean, ‘Smederevo’ doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it? 1 Kragujevac 2 Zrenjanin 3 Čačak 4 Kruševac 5 Užice Congratulations! They are *all* places in Република Србија. Here’s your copy of y Geiriadur Mawr as your prize. Good luck in finding a job as a journalist – you’ll… Read more »
Ooft, Geiriadur Mawr? Gwell gwobrau yn ffair Panteg. Galle ti o leia’ ‘di rhoi geiriadur Yr Academi i’r croten 😜
O’n i’n meddwl bod hwnnw braidd yn rhy fawr iddi, Ceri.
Ond wedyn, dan ni’n dau wedi syrthio i’r trap o feddwl bod y gradurs yn medru darllen … 😛
Beware of nationalism – I was in the former Yugoslavia in the late ’80’s early ’90’s …………….enough said 🙁
That was ethnic nationalism. This is anti-colonialism.
I did not realize how put upon the Welsh are. As a black man who enjoys jogging in the American South, I can totally identify with this sort of vile oppression. Fight the power.
American here, this is a shining example of the jaw-dropping hypocrisy from the virtue-signaling left, with Buzzfeed being one of the worst. Her article is a vicious attack on the defenseless Welsh minority that has suffered for centuries by various shapes and forms of discrimination and currently it seems to be facing cultural genocide. Technically it’s racist, she’s attacking a culture that is different from her own and she clearly does not understand, nor does she want to. Take Zulu or other South African languages that use “!” in the middle of words to denote a clicking sound. If she… Read more »