Siarad dwli

Ydy wir. Mi ges i ebost llynedd sy’n dweud: peidiwch â siarad am offeren ar Planed GNOME; dydy hwn ddim yn Planed Eglwys. Ac mi atebes i, peidiwch â siarad bolocs: ffenestr i’r bywydau pobl GNOME ydy’r blaned, on’d ydy?

(I got an email last year complaining that I wrote about my everyday life, including mentioning going to mass at one point, which suggested that I should have restricted such posts to “Planet Church”. I told them where to go.)

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Thomas Thurman

Mostly themes, triaging, and patch review.

6 thoughts on “Siarad dwli”

  1. he (and I’m fairly sure it’s a he, given the level of entitlement required to make that sort of comment) probably doesn’t believe in the destination you suggest. ;)

    My Welsh is non-existent. But my statistical machine-translation background finds parallel text fascinating, so I’m looking for decodings: “Planed Eglwys” is obviously “Planet Church” [I see the cognate in English “ecclesiastic” and Spanish “iglesia” [church].

    As for far-out speculations: Am I right about ‘bolocs’ being a borrowing from British English? I so hope so.

  2. Yes, “eglwys” is church, one of the large number of Romance loanwords which flooded the language about a thousand years ago. There’s an interesting distinction, though: another word, “llan” is often also translated “church”, but it’s derived from Celtic; in modern Welsh I understand it to mean something like “specialised enclosed area of land” (e.g. a vineyard is “gwinllan”, wine-llan), and in this sense a llan would be the churchyard. As well as finding synonyms being interesting in its own right, this is interesting for two reasons:

    1) I wonder whether, at least at some point, holy places were special enclosed areas of land rather than special buildings, and whether the word use reflects that, or whether it’s just a coincidence.

    2) A vast number of Welsh place names have the form “Llan” + mutated name of a saint (apposition forms the genitive). So “Llanfair” = “Llan Mair”. Of course you’d tell English speakers it means “Church of St Mary” and not “Special enclosed field of St Mary”, but it’s not the whole truth.

    As to the second part: At some point in the last few centuries, as I’m sure you’re aware, English switched from profanity to obscenity as the primary means of expostulation. Welsh has several quite interesting cursewords to do with religion, but surprisingly few to do with sex or genitalia, and all the ones it does have are very similar to the English ones; I assume it has something to do with this change in thinking in English. (You will, for example, fairly often hear “fwcin”, so spelt.)

  3. @Thomas: the Llan thing is interesting to me, too; it’s a sort of covert semantic drift — the Welsh know it means one thing, but they’re telling the linguistic overlords (the English) it means another; the meaning goes from one to the other and I suspect the distinction is bleaching out.

    Apparently the English wikipedia article ( does not make the distinction that the Cymraeg article does.

    And there’s no entry for llan at all. If you *do* translate, would you consider putting it on Wikipedia?

  4. @Trochee: Okay, will do later when I’m not at work.

    The reason the English article is different is that it’s about the village of Llan, which is in Powys (since that’s the most obvious reason for “Llan” to be found in an English sentence). You see the disambiguation link at the top of the Welsh version:

    Erthygl am y gair Cymraeg ‘llan’ yw hon. Am y pentref ym Mhowys gweler Llan (Powys).

    “This is an article about the Welsh word “llan”; for the village in Powys see [[Llan (Powys)]].”

  5. @Trochee: here’s my translation:

    A “llan” is a piece of land that is closed in. It is a very common element in Welsh placenames, especially in the sense “piece of consecrated ground”.

    The roots of this word are very ancient. According to the University of Wales Dictionary, it derives from the theoretical Celtic word *landa from the root *lendh- (“open land, heathland”). This is cognate to the word “llannerch” [ TT: which means “a clearing in a forest” ] and the English word “land”. Cognate words are found in the other Celtic languages, such as “lann” (“church, heathland, open land”) in Breton, and “lann” (“open land; building, church”) in Irish, for example. From the cognate Gaelic word *landa comes the French word “lande” (“heathland, rough land”). [Ref: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, cyf. 2, tud. 2094.]

    The [original?] meaning in Welsh, it is probable, was “piece of land, enclosed in order to grow some crop or other, or to keep property”, and it had this sense in some compound words such as “coedland” (enclosed land to grow trees), “corllan” (to keep animals), “gwinllan” (to [grow?] wine), “perllan” (for fruit), “ydlan” (for growing grains), etc. [Ref: ibid]

    With the arrival of Christianity and the proliferation of churches, the sense “piece of consecrated land” evolved, naming the land which encircled the church, containing the graveyard [“mynwent”] ([I can’t follow this parenthesis; something to do with “mynwent” also being an example of something.]). The next step was for the word “llan” to come to mean the church itself, and thus the larger portion of towns and villages and parishes in Wales received their placenames, usually joined with the name of a saint, such as Llanlechid (the church of St Llechid). This “llan” was some land which was connected to some particular saint, where a cell or some cells stood or an early cloister.

    Links have been made to two or more saints in “llan” placenames such as Llanddeusant, Llantrisant, Llanpumsaint and even Llandeuddegsaint [two, three, five, twenty saints]. Some examples of placenames have been made to describe their side, such as Llan-faes (in an open field [=maes]), Llangoed (in the wood [=coed]), Llanllyfni (along the River Llyfni). [Ref: Ifor Williams, “Enwau Lleoedd” (Liverpool, 1945).]

    “Llan” can refer to the Church itself insofar as it is an institution, especially in a comparison to the secular world or the state, for example in the saying “mewn llan a llys” [=between llan and court], i.e. everywhere. As a metaphor it can also mean “heaven”. [Ref: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, supra]

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