Sunday 23 April 2023

Nerd Church - It's Bannau Brycheiniog, Deal With It

In the spirit of friendship with our English neighbours, before we start I would like to wish you all a Happy St. George's Day! (Which is today - 23rd April)

You wouldn't think that a Welsh location having a Welsh place name would be controversial, but here we are...

Title: It's Bannau Brycheiniog, Deal With It

Wales is full of mountains.

Like, there's so many mountains that most of the time we don't even notice they're mountains, let alone know what they're called. Most of them contain the scars of human industry and/or habitation.

But there are a few mountain ranges - a few national parks, in fact - that aren't untouched by humans, or even untouched by industry, but have kept enough of their own character, and enough tether to the natural world, to be classified as 'wild.'

Like Y Bannau Brycheiniog.

Bannau Brycheiniog was also officially known, until this week, as the Brecon Beacons.

'Brecon Beacons' is an Anglicisation that evolved from the earlier Anglicisation of Brecknock Beacons.

The national park has decided to use only the Welsh version of the name - Bannau Brycheiniog -  moving forward. 

Just as Snowdonia national park has decided to use the Welsh word, Eryri, and Yr Wyddfa for Mount Snowdon.

These were the words these places had before they were renamed in the English language.

So, you might be thinking: Cee, what's the problem? They've just dropped the English version, no biggy.

And I would agree with you.

But apparently a lot of the English media and a lot of English people on social media would not.

We'll have to rewind a little here and explain a little about the history and general state of the UK as a whole.

It's confusing and complicated af, so I'll try to keep it simple.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official name of our country.

I know.

But there's a reason for it.

The UK is comprised of 4 main nations (plus some subsidy island dependencies which enjoy a wide range of grey area statuses.)

These nations are Northern Ireland - 

which comprises part of the island of Ireland 

- and the nations of the island of Great Britain: Wales, Scotland, and England.

I am Welsh and live in Wales, as anyone who's seen my socials or read this blog for more than five minutes will probably know.

Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are all Celtic nations

 - there are more Celtic nations than that, including the Republic of Ireland, and also Cornwall, which is technically currently a part of England - but if I get more complex than that, then we're gonna be here all day.

Yr iaith Gymraeg/the Welsh language is an ancient and vibrant language. 

There's some disagreement over how old, exactly, the language is because languages are constantly evolving, but it has its roots in the language spoken here, in this land, 4000 years ago.

Back then, Wales, as such, did not exist, and nor did England. Instead there were many small kingdoms in Albion/Prydain - the main island of Great Britain - as well as the surrounding islands.

The Romans decided that the Celtic land of Britannia - as they knew it - was worth invading, leading to the Romano-British period.

Centuries after the Romans had all either left or assimilated, the Anglo-Saxons invaded and/or colonised.

Some modern historians have tried to rephrase this as the native Britons suddenly deciding to take on the culture of some random German tribes, but we kept the Celtic cultures through our tenure in the Roman empire, so make of that what you will.

Also, said modern historians are often English. Just an observation.

So, the Anglo-Saxons.

They created England.

It was more complicated than that - because it always is, and Britain is incapable of doing things in a simple manner - but their invasion was the cultural shift that eventually led to the modern nation of England.

At some unknown point in history, though probably before the 7th Century CE, the remaining Celts collectively came to refer to themselves as Cymru.

This was a term that applied not only to Wales, but also to other enclaves of Celts in Britain. Cymru refers to brethren, or fellow country-people. It's basically a way the Celts came up with to say 'us.'

Wales, or Welsh, was an Anglo-Saxon term probably descending from terms for foreigners or Celts. In other words - 'them.'

So Cymru/Wales remained, with our loose confederation of lands ruled by Princes, with the occasional de facto Tywysog Cymru/Prince of Wales.

This was NOT a hereditary title - that's important. Remember that.

It was a title given to the head prince - usually the guy with the most land - who acted as the leader of all the other princes. 

The Tywysog was nothing to do with divine right, and our complex legal and inheritance system meant that a father-to-son passing of the title rarely happened.

After the Anglo-Saxons, Britain was invaded by a bunch of French guys called the Normans who stuck their own King on the English throne.

This is known by all school kids here as '1066 and all that.'

The Normans gained some lands in Wales, but they mostly held them on equal level with the native Princes.

Then one of the descendants of those French-English guys - who didn't even speak English, let alone Welsh - slaughtered the last true Tywysog Cymru.

The murder of Tywysog Llywelyn occurred in 1282.

Yes, we've only got up to the year 1282 in this recap - aren't you glad I decided to simplify? 😅

And we became a conquered nation.

And the King who subjugated us against our will, Edward I, gave the title of Tywysog Cymru - a non-hereditary honorific given to the most powerful prince - to his son.

That's how it remained: every heir to the English throne is given the title of Prince of Wales. Hereditary. A spoil of war.

So, in the subsequent centuries we have lived under English rule - for better or worse, and without ever asking us our opinion on the matter.

Generally speaking, it's been an uneasy relationship. Half the world still thinks that Wales is in England, and that hurts. 

England very much has the power in Britain today.

The formation of Britain as it stands today with all four nations is a whole other set of  complicated happenings - which I do not have the time or energy to go into here.

But British we are - with all the history, good and bad, that that brings. (Like the Empire... not great.)

But the language - that's another issue.

See, yr iaith Cymraeg/the Welsh language has always been the beating heart of this country.

I speak very little of it. But, I do siarad/speak a little. Not least because my native dialect is Wenglish (Welsh + English.)

Because language politics here is... messy. And long. And often cruel.

The Welsh language is a symbol of us and our Celtic culture - something that we have held onto, despite the odds, throughout the centuries.

And the British (English) authorities have, systematically, tried to erode and degrade that language and that culture.

Despite that, yma o hyd/we're still here.

So, to Y Bannau Brycheiniog.

A mountain range in Wales with an official name that is now only in Welsh.

'It's too difficult to say!'

To which I say, you can use the Bannau (the BAN-nye) if you can't manage the Welsh 'ch,' - which is like the German 'ch', or like the Scottish, as in Loch.

Or you can say ER BAN-nye Brick-KYE-Nee-OG - which isn't quite there, but at least you'll have made the effort.

'Well I'll still say Brecon Beacons!'


No-one really cares.

The official name is changing. You can call it your great-Aunt Nelly if you want, no-one gives a damn.

'It's erasing history!'

*gestures at this entire post*

No. Try again.

'People will get lost!'

If that's the case - and I say this as someone with Dyscalculia who has zero sense of direction - if you genuinely will get lost on main roads to a known tourist destination solely due to a well-publicised name change...

...then you're probably better off not climbing a mountain and making the local search and rescue find your English butts when you inevitably get into trouble.

'It's Wokism gone mad!'

(- This reaction is partly due to the fact that one of the several reasons for the name change was a move towards a net-zero future, and not using a flaming carbon-based torch as an emblem. Which is a very Welsh aim, in and of itself.)

...I can't even begin to correct this one.

It's just so ridiculous.

Just. On so many levels. No.

'It's erasing English!'


Because we're in Wales, cariadau. This is the original name of those mountains, m'k?

'They didn't do a public consultation!'

...You mean like the one where Cymru decided to become part of the UK? Or the one where we agreed to a hereditary Prince of Wales? Or the one where we decided to call it the Brecon Beacons to begin with?

 - Oh, wait. There wasn't one. Strange that.

Still, there's some rays of light.

I haven't seen any references to us as 'sheepsh**gers' in relation to this.

I'm sure they're out there - I'm not naive enough to think that the bestiality slurs will cease as if by magic - but I haven't seen them.

Which means they haven't been that wide-spread. So, progress? I guess?

So. A mountain range in Wales has a Welsh name.

Deal with it.

What do you think?

And did I manage to make the vast and complicated history of my beautiful nation at least somewhat comprehensible?

Talk to me! 😅💬

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  1. Hmmm ok so I have a question (I find terminology regarding the UK and GB quite confusing, I can never remember whos a part of what!). If England, Scotland and Wales are a part of the island of Great Britain, is NI not part of Great Britain then? But NI is part of the UK? I'd ask my NI aunt but your my resident history teacher, lol!

    1. No, technically speaking, Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain, because it's on Eire/the island of Ireland.

      If someone's using Great Britain or Britain as shorthand for the UK, though, then they WILL be including NI. It's just that the whole thing is a goddamned mouthful. And also most people here don't even understand it, don't worry.

      Many NI people see themselves as British. But that's a whole *waves hands* other issue, to do with the colonisation and independence of the Republic of Ireland, and how Ulster/NI wasn't included in that. And I am NOT qualified to discuss all the issues there!


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