Thursday, June 9, 2011


You may not know this, but many English speaking people, including this scribe, know that Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (short form Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, also spelled Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and commonly known as Llanfair PG or Llanfairpwll), is a village in Wales, and that the long form of the name is the longest officially recognised place name in the United Kingdom and one of the longest in the world, being 58 letters in length (51 letters in the Welsh alphabet, where "ch" and "ll" count as single letters). The name is Welsh, naturally, and means "St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave".
I knew that it was a village in Wales and had the longest name in the UK, although I didn’t know what the name meant! Also what I didn’t know, was that the community is on the island of Anglesey in Wales, situated on the Menai Strait next to the Britannia Bridge and across the strait from Bangor. And according to the 2001 census, the population of the community was 3,040, and is the fifth largest settlement on the island by population. It has other attractions to tourists, such as the nearby Marquess of Anglesey's Column, which at a height of 27 metres offers views over Anglesey and the Menai Strait. This column was designed by Thomas Harrison, and the monument celebrates the heroism of Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey at the Battle of Waterloo.
However its main claim to fame is the length of its name and visitors stop at the railway station to be photographed next to the station sign, or visit the nearby Visitors' Centre, or even better, to have 'passports' stamped at a local shop.
Now you may have known that in the long form of the name, it is the longest officially recognised place name in the United Kingdom and one of the longest in the world, being 58 letters in length. But did you know that they cheated? Yes! The village's long name cannot be considered an authentic Welsh-language toponym. It was artificially contrived in the 1860s to bestow upon the station the honour of having the longest name of any railway station in the United Kingdom: an early example of a publicity stunt. The village's own web site credits the name to a cobbler from the local village of Menai Bridge. According to Sir John Morris-Jones the name was created by a local tailor, whose name he did not confide, letting the secret die with him.
The village was originally known as 'Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll' "St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel." As an aside, the name was also used in the movie Barbarella as the password for the headquarters of Dildano, the comical revolutionary.
What I found fascinating about this article was that even in the Mid 19th century people were thinking up Gimmicks to attract the tourists and their money, even then. Just goes to show that the Bible is correct when it says that there is nothing new under the sun.
Well bye for now, but before I go, just in case you were wondering, the approximate pronunciation in English orthography is given at the station as: Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch. Happy Tongue twisting to you!

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