Opinion

Why it’s disrespectful and offensive to put the word ‘the’ in front of Gower

18 Aug 2021 4 minutes Read
A beach in Gower. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Dafydd Williams

Is it too late to persuade the media and others to stop using the offensive ‘the’ word when referring to the beautiful land of Gower?

Placing the definite article before ‘Gower’ is not just an unnecessary intrusion – it is disrespectful of the history of Wales.

The boundaries of ancient Gower date back centuries to a time long before the Norman invasion.

Gower proper includes not only the peninsula (Gŵyr Is Coed) but the whole of the inland territory between the rivers Llwchwr and Aman to the west and the Twrch and Tawe to the east (Gŵyr Uwch Coed).

Therefore prefixing the peninsular part of Gower with “the” ignores the existence of a substantial chunk of the land of Wales, a bit hard on the good people of Pontardawe, Clydach and Gorseinon.

Gower emerged as a distinct territory from the seventh century on, its boundaries crossing the Tawe to include the land around Kilvey Hill, and forming an area quite similar to the modern City and County of Swansea.

Even after the Normans annexed much of peninsular Gower, displacing the indigenous population with settlers from Flanders and England, they recognised the ancient Welsh boundaries.

That meant that the Lordship of Gower, whether ruled by feudal dynasties such as the de Breos family, or directly by the Crown as it was by King John, included both the peninsula and its hinterland.

The unity of Gower was respected throughout the centuries that followed.  For example, the 19th century writer Thomas Roscoe records that the stone bridge crossing the River Neath into the “little borough” of Neath marks “the boundary of Gowerland”.

These days, if you fancy something to put in your tonic you can buy Gower Gin, while real ale aficionados go for Gower Power or Gower Gold.

If you have a sweet tooth you can purchase Gower Brownies. There is no mention of “The” in any of their titles. Education is provided by Gower College (again, no “The”) and by Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr (no “Y”). Methodists can attend one of the chapels of Swansea and Gower Methodist Circuit.

Misuse 

It is true that you will hear the misplaced definite article in day to day parlance, but in my view this reflects years of slipshod media treatment and official misuse. Once it even appeared in the title of the new metric series of Ordnance Survey maps, although this error was acknowledged and corrected following a strong campaign by the Gower Society.

At one time the late Wynford Vaughan-Thomas could say: “No one born in Swansea or the peninsula ever calls it The Gower. And after all the original name was Gŵyr and not Y Gŵyr.”

But now not even the Welsh language is immune. The day after the 2015 General Election I heard a BBC political correspondent describe the Gower constituency as “Y Gŵyr”.

That was the first time for me to hear such an abomination, but sadly these days it happens all too frequently.

I have lost count how many times I have seen “the Gower” appear in television subtitles, on one occasion in a Welsh language programme when nature presenter Iolo Williams had (quite correctly) used the word “Gŵyr”.

Surely our broadcasters have a particular responsibility to get it right? After all, the BBC produces numerous memoranda of guidance on the use and pronunciation of a wide range of languages.

Or could it be that the mistake has found its way into BBC guidelines, and is now being spread around in both languages with the Corporation’s official blessing?

The much loved and sadly missed poet Nigel Jenkins once told Peter Finch on Mumbles headland: “It’s Gower, just Gower.  No definite article.”

He was right.

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Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago

It’s also offensive for the “nation cymru” etc al to refrer to the home of the gogs as “the North of wales”.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Or that the people or the language therein are “North Walian”.

I’m not a “Walian”. I’m a Cymro.

Discuss.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Why don’t people call the famous town in North Wales, The Rhyl? I always refer to it as Y Rhyl but have never heard the correct version by an English speaker. I lived near there back in the 1980s and got a few odd looks when I said I was going to The Rhyl!

Last edited 1 month ago by Huw Davies
Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

How about FFlint? Let’s face it, that strip of land has always been Merseysides dustbin.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Costa Geriatrica or the Lancashire Annexe as my late father referred to it …

Marc Evans
Marc Evans
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Rhaid wrth y fannod: “Y Fflint” (chwedl y gân drist honno: “Yr asyn a fu farw wrth gario glo i’r Fflint”) neu Y Gallestr mewn rhai cofnodion (h.y mewn Saesneg: flint), gan gyfeirio at y twlpyn o graig a safai ar lan Afon Dyfrdwy ac yn sail gadarn i’r Donjon, tŵr pennaf castell Y Fflint (a charchar Richard III a enwogwyd gan Shakespeare) a gododd Edward I ei gastell gyntaf yng Nghymru arni. Ac am y dref, ni fu feddwl uchel ohoni gan y Cymry erioed, gan nad oedd hawl ganddynt fyw na gweithio o fewn eu muriau; ys dywedodd… Read more »

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

How about Gog. I would consider myself a Gog first, rather than a “walian”

Maybe I am a Cymro but a Cymro Gogledd yn cyntaf.

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Your prerogative to be a Gog. And yes, occasionally I will use it – it all depends on the circumstances. However, I don’t think I’d like to be bracketed with some claymation cavepeople 😉

Gogs – Wicipedia (wikipedia.org)

(You may call me ‘bouquet’ – spelt b-u-c-k-e-t …)

Last edited 1 month ago by Welsh_Sion
Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Lol, I’m well aware of the Gogs claymation. I’m sure it was filmed in Bethesda, near my home city.

To be fair it’s very representative of some types of Gogs! Lol.

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Looks like it was a South walian production!

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

I thought Dafydd Emyr provided some of the voices.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

You can’t be a Gog without a Gogledd and you wouldn’t have Gogledd, De without a Walia to be divided. You have to be a Cymro first before you can be subclassified as a Gog or Hwntw!.

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

Dwy yn cymro, cymro Gogledd. Ac fi ac mae telu fi yn dod o Llanberis.

Dyna dewis fi – Gogledd cymru am byth!!! Gogs am Byth!! Prif Dinas cymru yn y Gogledd, ddim yn de cymru!

Annibyniol I Goggledd cymru of Caerdydd!!!

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Dwedwch hi fel y mae Tony

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

Diolch yn fawr am eich barn!

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

“The North of Wales” has become a popular alternative for “North Wales” as a way of emphasising that gogs and hwntws are citizens of one country; it was too reminiscent of “North and South Korea”.

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I see and agree either what you are saying, so on that basis, when will we see publications such as this one refer to South wales as “the South of wales” or the “west of wales”

They won’t. There lies the hypocrisy in the argument.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

If they don’t, then they should. Personally, I do.

Dim problem
Dim problem
1 month ago

Getting offended by this is some serious first-world-privilege snowflake stuff. There are homelesa people on the streets of Swansea, hundreds of thousands of people in poverty, and a climate being ruined, and you’re writing articles whinging about whether people call it “the Gower” or not? Pathetic.

MWW
MWW
1 month ago
Reply to  Dim problem

Not at all pathetic. We need a little amusing distraction….and it is educational as well.

Charles L. Gallagher
Charles L. Gallagher
1 month ago

Couldn’t agree more as we get pissed-off when people refer to ‘The Shetlands’, you never hear anyone referring to ‘The London’ do you? In fact, it’s grammatically incorrect!!!

Welshman
Welshman
1 month ago

I’m sorry but i think this is taking it a step too far

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

Interesting article. Presumably it’s OK to use the word ‘The’ if someone is talking about the geographical peninsular though – in the same way if someone asked where you went last weekend you’d say “The Brecon Beacons” not simply “Brecon Beacons”

Could/should the same be said about (The) Rhondda? Genuine Question.

The ‘the’ is usually added when referring to the valley or the constituency which is often a phrase misused when you’re actually referring to the town. (Also see confusion between Bridgend Town and Bridgend County etc)

Stuart Cane
Stuart Cane
1 month ago

Should we be saying the The Barry, The Abergavenny and The Bala as well in English?

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Stuart Cane

Y trallwng- Welshpool

John Brooks
John Brooks
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

But not a direct translation. I understand the ‘Welsh’ was added to the English ‘Pool’ to distinguish it from Poole in Dorset. I believe Y Trallwng translates roughly as the Marshy or boggy place, which if you see how Afon Hafren floods alongside the A483 you will know why!

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  John Brooks

Diolch! Often wondered about that-

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

When I was at Swansea Uni back in the unenlightened old days when people didn’t worry about such things we referred to the “The Gower Peninsular” (shortened to “The Gower”) or “On Gower” as in “We going to spend the day on Gower”. The Gower in “Jack Speak” referred to the sticky out bit from Sketty westward. Well it did to me anyway.

Huw Prys Jones
Huw Prys Jones
1 month ago

What is even worse is the crass ignorance of those English tourists and incomers who refer to Llyn as ‘the Kleen’

Alun
Alun
28 days ago
Reply to  Huw Prys Jones

Well at least they’re having a bash and not calling it ‘The Leen’. I don’t actually blame tourists for that, I blame the British state for not teaching basic Welsh (and Gaelic) pronunciation in schools.

David Griffiths
David Griffiths
1 month ago

What a loaf of guff. It’s not offensive to me when someone says “The” in front of Gower and I’ve lived there all my life. I went to Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr. I’ve always called it The Gower. It has always been to us natives Swansea, Mumbles and the Gower. Who writes this nonsense and what credentials does he have to dictate “The” is correct?

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

Absolutely! Anyone can delve into history and discover evidence to back up their odd opinions.

Phil Jones
Phil Jones
1 month ago

There’s also a recent tendency to stick “the” in front of all sorts of other things, like “the iplayer”, “the Covid”, etc.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

From what I read in this article there are two different things, there is “Gower” which is the name of the old Lordship of Gower and there is the peninsula part of that Lordship which sticks out West of Swansea/Abertawe. The Lordship of Gower is historical whilst The Gower Peninsula is the geographical description of the peninsula. The sticky out bit between THE Lougher Estuary and THE Bristol Channel is almost universally known as THE Gower Peninsula (or if you like THE Peninsula of Gower). The short form of the geographical name of The Gower Peninsula is ….. The Gower!… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Nick
Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

It’s just a grammatical error, and one that some Welsh people make, too. Offensive and disrespectful? No.

arthur owen
25 days ago

I thought’ who cares’ and then found that lots of you did and lots of others who cared about about those who cared in the first place.

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