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Enough is enough in Wales ...but sufficient does it in England

Jul 10 2003

Madeleine Brindley, The Western Mail

 

THE Welsh are more likely to use the language of their old Anglo-Saxon enemies in everyday conversations than the English.

Despite Welsh tribes spending years fighting off the Anglo-Saxons' territorial advances, Anglo-Saxon culture is now entrenched in the English language.

And Welsh people are more likely to opt for Anglo-Saxon words than their English counterparts, who prefer the Latin equivalents.

Research has shown that while an average of 77% of the words chosen by the English are Anglo-Saxon, the English-speaking Welsh average more than 80%.

Where the English are more likely to choose a word such as "sufficient", which comes from Latin, the Welsh will prefer to say "enough", an Anglo-Saxon word.

And where the Welsh opt for the more simpler "leave", as the early Anglo-Saxons would have, the English, preferring the language of the Roman invaders, are more likely to say "departure".

Similar differences are noted in the use of the word "need" by the Welsh but "require" by the English.

Even celebrities born either side of Offa's Dyke will show the same splits.

Communications specialist company Optimum, which carried out the survey, found that Swansea-born Catherine Zeta Jones uses 3% more Anglo-Saxon words in her interviews than Liz Hurley.

Dylan Thomas used nearly 4% more than Ted Hughes or the current poet laureate, Andrew Motion.

Health Secretary John Reid was found to use grander language than the Queen. Only 62% of the former Communist's words had Anglo-Saxon origins, compared with 68% of the Queen's vocabulary.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his deputy John Prescott also use more Latin words than the average citizen.

Former PM John Major is the most plain-speaking political figure. More than seven out of 10 of his words are Anglo-Saxon.

Malcolm Galfe, who works for Optimum, said, "Finding the Welsh speak more Anglo-Saxon than the rest of Britain was unexpected.

"The study aimed to help people in marketing and government speak the same language as the public and, in Wales, that means a bit more Anglo-Saxon."

The Anglo-Saxons left a lasting legacy on the English language. Most words used during everyday conversations today are derived from their culture and language.

But while it may be the language of the people, less than 10% of words in today's English dictionary come from Anglo-Saxon. The other 90% are derived from French and Latin, languages of the law and the powerful.

By comparison there are fewer than two dozen words from Welsh in modern English and, in the course of Optimum's study, none was found among the 65,000 words of conversation between people in Wales that were examined.

While military invasions and the dominance of foreign cultures at different times have filled our dictionaries with the words we use every day, sheer artistic invention has also been influential.

Shakespeare invented more than 1,600 words, including countless, critical, excellent, lonely, majestic and obscene.

 
 

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