Happy St David’s Day/Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus to all those around the world with Welsh links or sympathies. For those unaware, St David’s Day on 1st March, is the national day of Wales, celebrating the saint day of the patron saint of Wales, David, and is an excuse (if ever needed) to stock up on Welsh flags, sup some Brains Beer, tuck into Welsh rarebit and Welsh cakes, and sing Calon Lân while watching reruns of Wales beating England in rugby. With all stereotypes out the way, the nation building of Wales/Cymru is an interesting one. The history is uncertain, but Wales has it’s origins in the fall of the Roman Empire, with the Romans leaving, with a Romano-British culture with Latin, British and Celtic hybrid culture being left behind. With the subsequent invasion and/or assimilation of Anglo-Saxons into what we now know as England, Romano-British culture was pushed into Cornwall and Wales. While, Wales was eventually assimilated into ‘England’ over the following millennia, despite the legends of Romano-British lord, Arthur, and later resistance led by Owain Glyndŵr, however the language of Welsh/Cymraeg and Welsh culture identity still survives strong today.
This history can be reflected in language and place names of Wales and England. ‘Wales’ comes from the Anglo Saxon, ‘Walesia’, ironically, meaning foreigner; whereas ‘Lloegr’ (England in Welsh) derives from ‘lost lands’. Additionally, ‘Cymru’ is thought to come from the word ‘Citizen’, i.e. citizens of Rome, and these Latin links can be seen in examples of Welsh words. For example, ‘bont’ (bridge) is similar to the also Latin-based French version, ‘pont’; similarly, ‘ffenestr’ (window) is similar to Italian, ‘finestra’. So why is this all on a mapping/geospatial blog? Because place names we have in our gazetteers, aren’t produced just randomly, they reflect history and culture, as I could easily do a similar description for another country or place in the world (you can get whole maps on this stuff!). So I come to this fantastic map (see above) produced by Rhys McKenzie, a geo-scientist from Cardiff University, back in 2014, who researched and produced this fantastic etymological map of Wales. Hopefully the perfect thing to mark St David’s Day in the mapping world.