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Forget David Starkey – Lets Talk About The Daily Mail And ‘Monkey Language’

As Britain England deals with the outcry over professor David Starkey’s controversial comments on the days of civil unrest that recently blighted several English cities, with some condemning and some supporting the well-known historian, an equally controversial, and arguably more unambiguously racist, article has appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper. In reviewing a newly published book by the journalist Jasper Rees, columnist Roger Lewis sinks to new lows in the anti-Welsh bigotry that has become the hallmark of the British media establishment:

‘Not many people in full possession of their faculties would find it appealing or necessary to try to turn themselves into a ‘real Welshman’. Nevertheless, this has been the ambition of Old Harrovian Jasper Rees in his new book Bred Of Heaven.

Perhaps a future project will see Rees don the burka and infiltrate Helmand to search for his inner  opium cultivator.’

Lovely. Two insults for the price of one there: querying why on earth anyone would want to trace their Welsh heritage and equating doing so with a region the author obviously regards as being blighted by poverty, backwardness (burka-wearing) and drugs. Why discriminate against just one group of people when you could include, others?

‘Nevertheless, in his quest to call himself a Celt, our author does the maddest thing of all — he actually learns Welsh, by attending evening classes (in London/Llundain) and going on courses.

I abhor the appalling and moribund monkey language myself, which hasn’t had a new noun since the Middle Ages — hence pwdin is pudding, snwcer is snooker, tacsi is taxi and bocsio is boxing.

As Kingsley Amis, who lived in Swansea for many years, once said, can it be true that there are Welshmen who are genuinely puzzled by the letter x? Incidentally, pys is not what you’d think. It’s peas.’

Monkey language? Did he just use that term? Yes, I’m afraid he did. I wonder what the reaction would be if David Starkey had described the gang language of London as ‘monkey language’? Or used it to describe the Jamaican-derived patois of some English urban communities?

As to the rest of Lewis’ inaccurate inanities, Adam Jones deal’s with them in this excerpt from his blog:

‘What he begins his attack with is something we as Welsh people have witnessed all to often, the ignorance of a monolingual trying to dumb down our language for borrowing words from other languages, as if to deem our language ‘moribund’ or ‘inferior’. Now if he wan’t to make that point let’s evaluate it, he states the language hasn’t had a new noun since the middle ages yet then goes on to describe evident borrowings that are evidently new and that are nouns?

Make your mind up Roger, are they new nouns or are they just borrowings? If so the case would you also explain to me the English for ‘Tomato’ ‘Coffee’ ‘Cul de sac’ ‘fait accompli’ ‘Orange’ ‘Orangutan’? Those middle ages in which you speak are when your pure English tongue changed so drastically it could be described part romance. Let’s take out every English word ending in ant/ent – Important, Apartment, Ailment, Ointment, Compliment, Distant. Let’s also remove all words ending in ance – Romance, Dance, Distance, Compliance, and Reliance. Need I elaborate further?

You see Roger 40% of  your lexicon is simple French, all words ending in ant/ent/ ance, able/ible/ que are all that of French origin, Im afraid your language has borrowed and continues to borrow more than any other which aids to part of it’s success a living language adapts and develops. I’m glad therefore that you’ve highlighted the many borrowings of Welsh to support this assumption and thus proclaiming Welsh a living flourishing language on your own behalf.’

Excellent stuff and it is well worth reading it all. The arguments of Roger Lewis are often employed by the same Anglophone bigots that live here in Ireland, cluttering up our news media, forums and social media with their anachronistic and racist ramblings. At least we can now see where they derive their ideas and beliefs from, none other than the right-wing, conservative and nationalistic British press. I wonder has Roger Lewis met Kevin Myers?

Meanwhile back with the Daily Mail there is even more bile, this time bordering on the slightly surreal:

‘But the trouble with the Welsh language is that it isn’t a quaint custom revived or the relic of cultural niceties — it is foisted on people for political reasons.

Though I was born in Caerphilly and have, as it happens, not a drop of non-Welsh haemoglobin in my veins, I detest the way Wales has been turned into a foreign country, with a Welsh language radio station, television channel, and dual-language road signs.’

The Welsh language in Wales is a foreign language? Welsh-speaking children in Wales are foreign children? Seriously? This reads like an article written by the Anglo hacks at the Irish Independent or Herald, but substituting the words Welsh language for Irish language. It is incredible to see how the media establishment in Ireland takes its anti-Irish bigotry from the same discriminatory attitudes of the media establishment in Britain. Do they even see this? Actually, do they even care?

As fellow Celts it is sad to witness how native speakers in both nations are treated by some as second-class citizens with second-class rights in their own native countries. Those who have a native Irish or Welsh identity, whether born to it or taking it as their own in later life, have every right to express it, free of fear, hate or intolerance.

Forget David Starkey. The real bigots in Britain are the those who daily promote discrimination against the Welsh, Scottish and Cornish speaking communities, the many hundreds of thousands whose native or adopted language is not English but who are forced to speak that language or face a torrent of racist abuse.

That is something I know only all too well, even here in the supposedly free and independent Ireland.

4 comments on “Forget David Starkey – Lets Talk About The Daily Mail And ‘Monkey Language’

  1. “….a living flourishing Welsh language on your own behalf. ”
    Only because a tiny Welsh extremist minority have garnered sufficient support to have the infernal language forced upon the rest of us. Why? Quite obvious, really. ‘Jobs for the boys.’ Nothing more, and nothing less.


    • If a ‘tiny Welsh extremist minority’ have garnered sufficient support in Wales for their beliefs is that not called democracy?

      What are political parties but organised minorities who then go out looking for support from the majority?

      And how can one be a Welsh extremist in Wales? It is their country.

      No one is forcing their language on you. You speak English. Do you wish to force your language on others?

      As for ‘jobs for the boys’, I think the boys (and girls) want the same right to jobs as their English counterparts – and just like the English, in their own language too.

      I would hope that you would find the use of the term ‘monkey language’ an uncomfortably nasty one, even if there are other points that you do agree with.

      Respect, equality and fairness. Are they not the supposed hallmarks of Englishness? Wales is a nation with its own identity and language, just as England is. Let both be freely expressed. I think you’ll find that more will be garnered by open generosity, tolerance and acceptance than by hostility and oppression.

      Thanks for the Comment, even if I disagree with it. Always good to hear the opposite view and engage each other in dialogue.


  2. But the Welsh, Scots and Irish are not Celts, are they? Surely that’s been debunked by academics in each of those nations. You are saying you are a pure descendent of ancient white tribes? Sounds a little exclusive to me – perhaps even racist.


    • Hi Maria,
      I’m not sure where you get that belief from? Welsh, Scottish and Irish are Celtic languages, and universally recognised as such. Therefore those who are speakers of those languages, whether native or adopted in later life, are Celts. There has been no ‘debunking’ of the idea that the Irish, Scots and Welsh are in origin Celtic peoples amongst mainstream historians.

      The very fact that 900 academics (historians, linguists, archaeologists, etc.) have just gathered in Wales for the annual conference of the International Celtic Congress to discus the Celtic identity of the Celtic Nations somewhat disproves the point you are making.

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that I stated that I am ‘a pure descendent of ancient white tribes’. It appears nowhere in the above piece or anywhere on this site. It is a frankly bizarre claim to make.

      What is an ‘ancient white tribe’ anyway? I’m sorry but how is one supposed to respond to such ridiculously childish language?

      My article was about the casual racism against the Welsh-speaking communities and citizens of Britain that is so widespread, and a challenge to it. You disagree with that?

      Forgive me if I have misunderstood you but the way you phrased your Comment is a little odd so if I am mistaken in my interpretation of what you are attempting to say I apologise.


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