Welsh Place-Names Unzipped
Brian Davies Other books by Brian Davies
The ideal guide to understand and pronounce Welsh place-names. Includes explanations of most elements in place-names and sections on pronunciation and the Welsh language and alphabet.
Category: Leisure History
Part of the series: It's Wales
"When this book was 'reviewed' in the Western Mail it was dismissed with the words, 'I'm not very keen on [this]. It's meant for people who want to know what place-names like Bala and Tonypandy mean'. Well, I freely admit to having an interest in the meaning of place-names and so do thousands of others. Toponymy is a recognized academic subject,and many scholarly works have been published on the origins and meanings of place-names.
A name can reveal so much about a place – its history, its topography, its inhabitants, past and present, their occupations, its wildlife, its religious connections – and can often be a source of information about a place that otherwise would be forgotten. The number of books on place-names to be found in shops in busy tourist areas testifies to the number of people curious to know the meanings of the many colourful names to be found in Wales. While some of these just list the Welsh name together with its English meaning, and others add information about its origins, this little book is for the more adventurous. It gives the reader the means to analyse (or unzip) the meaning of Welsh place-names by providing a list of the elements from which most names are composed.
It is possible, using the book, to break down a name like Penrhyndeudraeth into its component parts and work out that it means 'promontory between two beaches'. It is written specifically for those who have no knowledge of Welsh,and takes into account the problems of initial mutations and unusual plurals. There are, for example, separate entries for 'arth', 'erth', and 'eirth', and a word like 'pont' appears under both its radical form and its mutated form 'bont'. Personal names are also included, so that it is easy to discover that Llangollen is the chursch of St Collen. Particular attention is given to words like 'aber', 'pen', and 'tref' which appear most often. Also included are a brief history of Wales and Welsh place-names, a guide to the pronunciation of Welsh, and a number of worked examples to help the reader on his way.
I have tested this on twenty randomly-selected names and found no difficulty in 'unzipping' fifteen of them. Some of the failures included some unusual name elements; the only surprise was not to find 'cas' as in Casnewydd. For a very small outlay this little book will entertain and inform the many visitors to Wales who show an intelligent interest in their surroundings.
" - Stan Jenkins, Gwales.com