I appreciate the title of this blog will mean nothing to 99% of the people who might click it, but stick with me. I’ve been battling this cause for so long on Facebook and Twitter with my friends, I thought it was time to properly document my thoughts on this most Welsh word, and this is the only place I have to do it.
Those who frequent Reading Addicts will know what an advocate I am for good English, and although I’m not a Welsh speaker, my love of language extends to my native language too. I am one of the many people who use incidental Welsh, that is, I’m not a fluent speaker, but there are words I use every day that come from the Welsh language. If I had to guess, I would say that cwts is probably the most used word by incidental Welsh speakers, and it’s a word that has now (thanks largely to social media) been transported around the world.
The fact is, it’s not even a proper Welsh word, it doesn’t appear in the Welsh dictionary (or if it does, it’s only been added in the last couple of years). It’s a slang word, used in speech by our grandmothers to mean a hug, a squeeze or a cuddle. However, now with the advent of social media, we are all writing a lot more. Status updates, Tweets and blogs mean that trends are soon spread and the world is smaller than it’s ever been. Suddenly there are business called Cwtch Corner, and there’s even a Cwtsh Radio show, it’s embroidered onto cushions and appears in at least one status update a day. Go and Google cwtch and cwtsh and you’ll see exactly what I mean, and you’re all spelling it wrong!
I understand that language changes, but it must still follow the rules of the language, and there are no other examples of ‘tch’ or ‘tsh’ in Welsh, these two sound formations never appear like this. The correct spelling is cwts, and the etymology of this slang word is where the reason appears.
Cwt – Small space; gap; small storage shed; hut.
And here are some examples that you may see cwts in incidental Welsh:
“Come and have a cwts with me!” – Come for a cuddle
“Get a cwts” (to the dog) – Get to your bed
“It’s in the cwts yn star” – It’s in the cupboard under the stairs
And this is where we get the slang word cwts from, to be pulled into a small, safe space. It’s this etymology that will be forgotten if the spelling changes forever. If the anglicised spelling of cwts becomes the standard, then it’ll be forgotten that a cwts is so much more than a hug, it’s a small, space to feel safe in.
So help me guys, it’s cwts, not cwtch, or cwtsh. We may speak incidental Welsh, but it should still be true to the language.
Now let’s all get together for a group cwts.
Just to clarify. I accept that cwtch is the accepted spelling of the word and that’s fine as language evolves, it’s the lost etymology that makes me sad. Because of the spelling change I don’t know anyone who knows where the word comes from and the etymology ‘small safe space’ is so cute and adorable. It’s like a hug is a safe or a comfy corner to curl up in, just a really safe, secure place to be. It’s the reason that cwtch or cwts doesn’t mean hug, and it’s the reason there is no English translation, it’s so true that only the Welsh can cwtch because it’s so much more than a hug, it’s a small safe place. This isn’t really me being pernickety about the language, more expressing a sadness at the lost history of a beautiful word and quirk of our language.