Monday, 29 August 2011

The Welsh are monkeys - forgive us if we can't take a joke....

"The Welshman's dishonest and cheats when he can
A little and dark, more a monkey than man"
Hat tip to Glyn at National Left.

I hadn't written anything on Roger Lewis's review in the Daily Mail a few weeks ago, mainly because it hadn't really generated that much in a way of "controversy" and had been largely ignored. I honestly couldn't decide if it was a satire on stereotypical English views of Wales/Welsh culture or just a wind up designed to draft as many hits as possible to the Daily Mail website.

We Welsh can be a bit precious and touchy at times - I'll admit that - but it's usually not without good reason. We can take the mickey out of each other, but generally don't like others taking the mickey out of us, especially if they come from our nearest neighbour.

We definitely don't like a Dic Sion Dafydd doing it. A certain kind of metropolitan/"civilised" Welshman/woman who feels it's their solemn duty to save us from ourselves without sparing the rod.

This isn't about racism, and we really need to stop crying "racism" whenever something nasty is said.

This isn't a freedom of speech issue either. Roger Lewis and the Daily Mail can print whatever they want as long as they - and the rest of the media - are willing to acknowledge that what's said/written might cause offense, and the reasons why it would.

We're fairly used to getting ribbed about the Welsh language. There are some very funny jokes that don't involve comparing Welsh speakers to lower forms of ape. There are even perfectly legitimate criticisms about how the Welsh language is taught, how it's promoted and its role in modern Welsh culture and society.

Criticising a language itself however is moronic. It's hard to get my head around someone criticising how somebody communicates. Where are the jokes about Slovene, Basque, Flemish and sign-language?

Hebrew shares strong phonological similarities with Welsh, Polish also shares the Welsh affinity for vowels, yet you can bet your life that nobody in the UK press could get away with calling either Hebrew or Polish a "monkey language". The antisemitism accusations alone would finish their career.

"Monkey language". It's that specific phrase that makes this different from anything else that's preceded it. It implies that Welsh is a language for and spoken by monkeys. There's the only issue for me, as for the rest of the review – meh.
The Irish were often depicted as ape-like creatures in magazines like Punch
even as the Great Famine killed thousands.

What images and phrases does "monkey" evoke in this particular context?

"Savage", "sub-human/not quite human", "un-evolved", "uncivilised", "unclean", "primitive", "unenlightened", "backward", "porch monkey", "the Irish monkey" and several stronger epithets that don't need mentioning here.

All thoroughly unpleasant and leading us down roads towards some very, very ugly places.

Roger Lewis chose one word to describe -directly or indirectly -people who speak a specific language, implying they were a selection of the things listed above. It's the sort of chauvinism that belongs in the 19th century. Although I keep hoping it's been eliminated in 21st Century "Britain" here it is once more.

Well-educated and otherwise respectable people are telling us to "laugh it off", "lighten up" or that there was "no malicious intent". All rather depressing, but predictable.

The message coming from the likes of Peter Black and Chris Bryant is clear – if you're a minority and someone implies that your differences make you inferior or unacceptable to the majority you need to "take it on the chin". They don't like a grass.

I look forward to hearing their views on school bullying, religious bigotry and homophobia in the future. In the case of Chris Bryant, his comment about "running to the police" is absolutely priceless given recent and past events.

What were we supposed to think "monkey language" meant, and why are we supposed to find it funny?


  1. Brilliant post and the cartoons add so much, da iawn :D Blog arall i ychwanegu at y ffrwd :D

  2. Diolch yn fawr Cymro i'r Carn!

    Always glad to have my blog listed by fellow "seibr-mwnciod".

  3. Of course we should laugh off insults. I thoroughly agree with the posturing, self-promoting, hypocritical fairy.