Here’s my take on the thrills and spills of dating, relationships and sex through the medium of Welsh.
This post is part of my Conserving Habitat for the Welsh Language series, and whatever your feelings about getting down to it through the medium of Welsh, it’s difficult to deny that this is a fertile area of habitat development.
Speaking Welsh as a seduction technique…
If you understand some Welsh, and even if you don’t but you’ve heard some spoken, you have to admit that it’s a sexy language. Even the most unassuming of people have been known to acquire devastating levels of sex appeal when they speak Welsh in a sultry regional accent.
For example there’s almost nobody from Caernarfon that isn’t sexy…
But I’ve just remembered that this point was supposed to be about my husband, who is from Bridgend not from Caernarfon, rather than the fact I have a crush on every other person on Radio Cymru. It’s arguable that the ‘sexy Welsh accent affect’ doesn’t always stretch to TV, but then I don’t own one so except for the occasional catch-up on S4C Clic, I live in a wonderful audio world in which all Welsh speakers are very,very attractive…
Tell me it’s not so.
I’m not sure I could pinpoint the native accent of a born and bred Welsh speaker from Bridgend. Could you? I am sure there are some people who meet this description but I have never met one, all the Pen-y-Bonters I know have acquired the language of heaven later in life.
So my Bridgend boy has a (lovely) hotch-potch of an accent in Welsh. Rather like me, I suspect, he tends to sound a bit like who ever he is speaking to at the time and much more Welsh following the consumption of alcohol.
Anyway, my point is this. If you are a Welsh speaker, and you play your cards right, you can use ‘the language of heaven, poetry and generally getting it on’ as your cupid’s arrow. Go on, fire it straight at the heart of the object of your affection, and watch them fall in love with you, and the Welsh language.
You’ll never look back. You’ll also have a lot of fun as you conjugate your relationship, and find imaginative ways of learning how to roll your rrrrs.
This is not how you learn Welsh if you are doing it by the book (for instance the book Teach Yourself Welsh).
But it is a lot more satisfying in every respect.
Finding your groove in Welsh/relationships in translation
You may find that after you teach the love of your life to speak Welsh, they want to do it with everyone but you. And I mean in a literal sense now, not figuratively, lest you suspect that I am conflating speaking Welsh with something altogether more suggestive…
So not always, but sometimes, this is how it feels. That they practise their Welsh with everyone, and even have some friends with whom they never speak English. But with you it’s complicated.
Don’t lose heart.
It may be because although they have discovered a whole new world, expressed in a language that resonates through the ages, it is not the language in which you met each other.
It may be because when you held their hand and opened the door to this secret land where every word is a poem and sounds burst with colour and depth, you made that first move in another language.
And language is important, it is part of what defines us. It is the means with which we map our souls. So don’t give up, if it feels like you will always have one foot of your relationship in each of two languages. That’s just the way it is. It’s hard to make the switch, when the first time you made each other laugh was in one language, to being just as funny in another.
Don’t feel left out, if sometimes it seems like they want to speak Welsh to everyone but you.
Remember that the first Welsh words they ever spoke were whispered breathlessly in your ear.
Welsh between the sheets
There is a saying ‘gwnewch popeth yn gymraeg..’ (do everything in Welsh).
So do you?
If you don’t, try it, I swear you’ll enjoy it.
But my advice is to avoid use of the word ‘pidyn‘ which in my opinion, has no place in this context, and can ruin an otherwise sexy moment.
Sex talk in Welsh for parents
In a recent post I discussed the necessity for parents to get to grips with talking about sexism through the medium of Welsh. Talking about sex and relationships is no different. Our eldest son is seven and he asks a lot of searching questions. So we have already covered many of the birds, the bees and what they get up to, albeit not in full detail.
He doesn’t miss a trick. So I am improvising my way through these conversations and navigating all of these topics in Welsh.
None of this is unusual, kids are curious. My approach is that if they are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to get an honest (age-appropriate) answer.
But given that we are raising them through the medium of Welsh, it’s important that we can discuss sex and relationships in Welsh too, otherwise what does that say, if every time I get into unfamiliar (parenting) territory I have to switch to English?
It’s funny though, that none of this is covered in any of the classes, in any of the books. It doesn’t come up, does it? We learn how to order a train ticket, to talk about (and identify) Wales’ most recognisable castles, and to describe our favourite childhood pet. But when did you ever learn anything really useful in a Welsh lesson (or any other language lesson for that matter) like how to explain to a seven year old how their baby sister got into your tummy, without actually saying the word ‘codiad‘ (erection)?
Which brings me on to…
What do you call your ji-binc?
I think this is an issue whatever language you speak. There are just more acceptable terms for boys’ bits than girls’ bits.
So what do you call it?
This is an important point. Very important. Because if you can’t name it, you can’t talk about it.
I’m not saying that the words we use for boys bits are always fantastic, there are just more options.
There are a very many good reasons to have learned Welsh and be raising my kids in this wonderful language. But even if there were none, then avoidance of the temptation to pass on the term ‘dilly-dangler’ to the next generation, would be reason enough all on it’s own.
Because at least in Welsh, as I’ve already mentioned, we have the word ‘pidyn‘.
In the context of ‘what is this?’ and ‘why does it sometimes do this?’, and ‘is it OK to play with it, and when?’ type questions that your young sons ask in the bath when first discovering this endlessly fascinating part of their anatomy, ‘pidyn‘ is a perfectly straight forward and practical word.
But what about girls? There doesn’t seem to be an obvious and satisfactory equivalent. We seem, so far, to be going with ‘ffw-ffi’ which makes me realise that I haven’t even attempted to spell this somewhat ridiculous word until now.
It’s not ideal.
In English it’s no better, options include the pretty awful ‘front-bottom’, and the frequent use of the word ‘vagina’ to mis-label an anatomical area that is much better represented by ‘vulva’.
Friends in the North of England are reclaiming their fannies.
But what’s the convention in Welsh? Or is it just not polite to talk about it?
I’ve been conducting an informal survey on the topic recently amongst female Welsh speaking friends, but this hasn’t really uncovered anything satisfactory yet.
‘Ji-binc’ has been the most endearing suggestion, but it doesn’t pass the ‘would a teacher understand if a girl used this word to tell them that someone who wasn’t supposed to, had touched it’ test… or might they think that she was talking about a stuffed animal and not realise it was an attempt to tell them something more serious.
Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it’s an important part of the body, and we need to be able to talk about it.
So what do you call yours? Comments please.
Love, luurve and cariad
There’s a kind of hearts and flowers, Clintons Cards, roses are red and its only real if it cost you a lot of money kind of love swilling about the place lately.
Its kind of sickly.
I can’t really be bothered with it.
It feels like the kind of ‘love’ that Disney Princesses are required to seek, and that can only be delivered by a chisel-chinned tights-wearing prince.
It feels like love has been hi-jacked and gift wrapped, for consumption. That it fits only a certain mould. Luuuurve.
So that’s partly why cariad is a wonderful place to set up home. It’s independent. It’s rebellious. Cariad doesn’t fit into the stereotypes. It doesn’t care if you’ve shaved your legs, it won’t judge you if you don’t follow the rules.
Cariad isn’t about hearts and flowers, not the bright red chocolate box ones anyway. Its not been annexed yet by Disney, it won’t tell you how your happy-ever-after ending should look (or even that you should want one).
So maybe that’s one of the reasons that somewhere along the line, cariad took over as the word that describes what is in my heart (or my crombiliaid, because I like this as an alternative interpretation of where in the body such feelings reside). That caru became the verb that describes what I do, when I live my life at full speed, full of joy. That rwy’n dy garu di became the most precious, honest, emphatic words that I can say to a person.
Or maybe this change came when my soul took root in three new beautiful people, whose first words and dreams have been in Welsh, that cariad started to mean more to me than love.
Or maybe it was a gradual process, that began when I heard the word ‘caru‘ from the lips of the person who taught me this word.
Whenever it happened, and however it took root, cariad means so many different things to me now.
Caru fy ffrind gorau oll yn y byd.
You can’t translate everything. And in my heart there is more to cariad than love.
Is that the secret to languages and why they resonate with something deep in our souls?
Because how can I explain it? How do I explain the process whereby the meaning of a word is more than its dictionary definition. The process by which meaning is accrued, day by day, by the lived experience you associate with a word?
Caru chi’ch tri, i gyd.
Fy nghariad annwyl, annwyl bach….
That’s the ultimate way to create Welsh language habitat, I now realise. You will it into existence, gyda phob curiad o dy galon, gan garu…