Cwtch: The hug invented by the Welsh

I’m a quarter Welsh. My darling grandmother grew up in the Rhondda Valley, a small mining town where her father was the school principal. She didn’t speak a lot of Welsh, other than to delight us by reciting the longest train station name in the world (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch). I was always aware, though, of the word ‘cwtch’. She didn’t use it often, but I knew it was special; it was almost said in a whisper. I remember her using it once in hospital, when we first thought she was dying. It’s a special sort of cuddle, she said. And that it is: a ‘cwtch’ (pronounced ‘kutch’, to rhyme with ‘butch’) is the Welsh word for a cuddle or hug, but it’s also so much more than that.

Its second meaning is a cubbyhole or cupboard; a small space in which to store things safely. Blend those two meanings and you get a better idea of what the word means: it’s the wrapping of your arms around someone to make them feel safe in the world. It’s precisely what my grandmother needed, and gave, as she started to see her life slip away from her. I remember nuzzling into her neck, smelling the Youth Dew perfume she wore on her papery skin, and feeling like there was no safer space in the world. That is exactly how a cwtch ought to make you feel: safe, warm, comforted.

It’s an emotionally significant embrace and an intrinsically Welsh word that evokes a sense of home. My grandmother was some 17,000km from her Welsh home when she died in her sunburnt adopted home of Sydney, Australia. It is of little surprise to me that she would use that word then, wanting, probably, to transport herself back to where she grew up. It’s in times of fear, danger, distress and melancholy that we most need a cwtch. It’s not a casual gesture of affection; it’s a profound one, and it was invented by the Welsh.

“It’s not just a cuddle or a hug – it’s something special and something I wouldn’t do with everyone,” said Amy Jones, a Welsh Londoner whose mother comes from Cardiff and father from the Valleys. “A cwtch is what my parents would give me when I was young and had fallen over, it’s something my husband and I do on the sofa when we’re in a blissful cocoon, it’s what I give my friends when they’re stressed or sad. A cwtch is something you do when you’re overflowing with joy and love at another person’s sheer existence in your life that you can’t help but try and squeeze that love into them; it’s a safe space of love and comfort for someone who needs it; it’s all the best parts of being alive and loving someone, in a pair of arms. Hugs are for everyone; cwtches are only for a few, very special people in my life.”

Read more: BBC Travel

Inuit delegation look to Wales for language preservation lessons

Jeela Palluq-Cloutier, executive director of the Nunavut Language Authority, and her 16 fellow travellers are Inuit — representatives from Nunavut, Labrador, northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories. They were invited to Wales by Prince Charles in order to try and learn how to save a dying language.

“In some areas of Canada’s north, the Inuit language is really thriving,” explains Palluq-Cloutier. “But there are communities where it’s gone down to 20 percent. And the speakers are only the elderly people — the youth are not speaking it anymore. So in those areas, we’re trying to bring the language back.”

Wales might seem like an odd detour on the journey to revive an Inuit language but the Welsh language survival story speaks volumes.

Welsh is believed be around 4,000 years old, making it the oldest language in Britain but during the mid-1900s, it almost became extinct. The language was rescued thanks to a concerted campaign over the past 25 years, which saw Welsh declared an official language and Welsh education made compulsory in public schools.

Read more: Global News

New book about the early history of the Welsh language finally published – in Welsh

It’s ironic, but until now, books about the early history of the Welsh language have not been available to read in Welsh.

Students often have to turn to English resources if they want to benefit from the latest research in the field.

Now a new e-book, published last week by a Russian academic sheds new light on the subject.

Llawlyfr Hen Gymraeg (‘Old Welsh Handbook’) by Dr Alexander Falileyev is the first comprehensive description of Old Welsh to be published in the Welsh language.

Old Welsh refers to the period between the ninth century and the early twelfth century in the history of the language.

Read more: Wales Online

Music ‘helping to keep Welsh language alive in Patagonia’

Music is helping to keep the Welsh language alive in Patagonia, harpist and composer Catrin Finch has said.

She has been in the Welsh-speaking part of Argentina with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) to mark 150 years since Welsh settlers arrived.

Ysgol yr Hendre, the bilingual Welsh-Spanish school in Trelew, has hosted performances during a week of events.

Ms Finch said it was “incredible” to visit a Patagonian school where all the pupils speak Welsh.
“I think it’s the music that is keeping the language alive,” she said after the school visit.

Read more: BBC News