If we call Wales, Cymru, what will we call ourselves?
With a petition calling to ‘abolish’ the name Wales in favour of its Cymraeg name, Cymru, set to cross the 10,000 signature barrier this week, attention is being turned towards the term we might use to refer to ourselves.
Cymry, Cymro, Cymraes, Cymric…. Or what about Cymraeg or Cymreig?
Let’s get the last two out of the way first is it.
In the bin
While Cymraeg does indeed mean ‘Welsh’ – it specifically only refers to the Welsh language, unlike in English, where we are both ‘Welsh’ and speak ‘Welsh’.
So that’s a quick one for the bin, but it perhaps needed a mention as it’s commonly mistaken as a one-for-all Cymraeg version of ‘Welsh’.
Next, let’s also bin “Cymreig’ as an option. Cymreig means ‘pertaining to Wales or Welsh people’ – culture, language, food etc.
This leaves us with four(!) possible contenders (and spoiler alert, they’re all staying)…
Let’s look at the ‘sexed’ ones first. Cymro and Cymraes – Welshman and Welshwoman.
As an English speaking Welshman who has learned Welsh, I’m very familiar with ‘Cymro’ as a term of pride and endearment and have used it to refer to myself in the past. Similarly, I’ve spotted a fair few users and lovers of the term ‘Cymraes’ online. I think these two terms will gain even more importance *when* Wales becomes Cymru.
But I also know that sexed terms are far from in vogue – just look at the term ‘actor’ for one example, and the ‘gender wars’ are ones I’m staying far out of. I don’t even want popcorn to watch from the sidelines.
So, I’ll be using Cymro no problem.
But for a one for all term for all of us – that leaves us with two options (Or maybe more – let me know)… Cymry and Cymric.
Now – Welsh speakers will undoubtedly continue to use Cymry as the right and proper term – and double, triple, quadruple checking with a few friends that’s the conclusion I expected.
Cymry, quite simply, means Welsh people. There you have it. Nailed. But have we?
All those I spoke to (and this is not binding, don’t throw things at me, I’m only little)… had no issue with Cymric being used by English speakers. And the reason I think Cymric is the term we should consider is because a one for all Welsh and English language designation, unlike the name for the land, just won’t fit in this case. Or will it?
Just as the French will still call us Gallois, from Pays de Galles and so on and so forth, and long may that be the case – “Je suis Gallois” works. I am Cymry just doesn’t. I wish it did but it sounds totes awks. And even if Wales is ever to reach full bilingualism, it’ll still be as jarring when we use English.
“The Cymry actor…” “I am Cymry…” “Isn’t she Cymry?” (Isn’t she wonderful) Nah. That won’t fly.
“The Cymric actor…” “I am Cymric…” “Isn’t she Cymric?” To me, that works.
For all those in Yr Hen Ogledd, the Cumbrians and descendants of the Cumbric speakers, it might even be seen as a return to the fold. Although even they may have referred to themselves as Cumbri. Are we going in circles here? Hmmm.
For the English speaking majority of Wales, it’s perhaps not as clear cut as we might think.
Absolutism won’t do Cymru any favours – let’s do this right for us once and one time only on the world stage.
I’m the first to push for defiance and accuracy, but I haven’t got time to sit down with the nearly 8 billion other residents of planet earth to ask them to call us ‘Cymry’ if even the people here won’t buy in – Cymric just flows better and sits better alongside people of the other nations of the world.
Cymru offers a rebrand like no other, let’s be open to a little compromise for everyone’s sake.
We have no issue calling people from Iceland, ‘Icelanders’, and neither do they have a problem with that. For themselves, they live in Ísland and call themselves Íslendingar but also call themselves Icelanders when speaking English. It’s normal. It’s natural.
And so having our own terms for the people of Cymru that work in English and in Welsh, but not necessarily in both, is also normal.
I am Cymric. I live in Cymru. I could go with that.
Ant Evans, book reviewer, feels different. He said: “I think it’s great to see people being so passionate about this. The language is our nation’s USP, so we should certainly make more use of it whenever we can (how many of us have been asked “Is that in England?” when overseas & telling locals where we’re from, after all?)
“Using Cymry for the people makes perfect sense to me as it places emphasis on the connection between those who live here and Cymru. If you live here, you belong to the country.
“However, not wanting to rain on anyone’s parade, I would proceed with caution. In Ireland, from my understanding, there’s a lot of use of Irish for names of agencies, and a lot of of status afforded to the language (the Irish language version of the constitution taking precedence over the English version for instance). However, as a living community language, it’s not in as great a position, and I feel we need to be wary of falling into a similar situation here.”
And so, it’s over to you. Cymry, Cymric, Cymro or Cymraes? All or none of the above? For this, I will be getting the popcorn in.
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