The importance of being Piloto

This is an essay by guest blogger, Verónica Policarpo, @VMPolicarpo. I’d like to thank her for sharing her creative writing story on the matter of names in our everyday lives, and, in this case, in the context of family pets.

Am fersiwn Cymraeg o’r traethawd yma, cliciwch yma.

Portread o piloto_well

A portrait of Piloto the Third. Tribute from a friend.

As the landline phone rang that day, it seemed to bring with it a tone of expectation and future joy. It was Grandpa. ‘Come’, he said. ‘Come now, to see a surprise I have for you.’ As usual, whenever Grandpa called me, I left everything and ran to his home. I was then 21. Grandma had passed away one year before, and her departure had left us, me and Grandpa, feeling lost and lonely in the world; growing inside us this unspeakable feeling of abandonment, of having become orphans and drifting. As I rushed to his flat, I kept thinking what the ‘surprise’ might be, and my heart ached with expectation.

I reached the flat gasping, after climbing the steps hurriedly. Grandpa led me to the kitchen. ‘Meet Piloto III (the Third).’, he said. ‘Meet the heir of a long lineage of Pilotos in our family.’

My eyes opened wide and I gazed at the small creature, curling inside an old and dirty carton box. His eyes like two shining marbles, he was a brownish stray, trembling inside his hole. Whenever people talk about ‘love at first sight’, it is his gaze that immediately comes to my mind. His immense delicate vulnerability pouring from his eyes, helplessly.

I held him immediately. He was fat and dirty, the fleas jumping all around him. In that moment, his life immediately became entertwined with mine. First decision: to call a few people to come and meet him! My mother, cousin, best friends, another couple of friends who were pretty much dog-lovers just like me. ‘Come! As soon as you can! There’s someone new in this family. You have to meet him at once!’

This was how Piloto the Third came into my life. He was the third of a long lineage of family dogs, all rescued and stray. Their story thus encompasses the very story of my family, at least in part. It is weaved into how the family passed across time and history, building its identity and memory along the way.

Here, I must say that Piloto is the Portuguese version of ‘Bobby’. In the sense that it was once one of the most popular names given to domestic dogs in certain social milieus. If we go back in time, some 50 to 80 years ago, we would probably find many ‘Piloto’ dogs among the working classes, both rural and urban. As the Portuguese Nobel of Literature, José Saramago, put it in one of his books:

A name that he [the dog] could catch without difficulty directly through genetics, as it must have been the cases of Fiel and Piloto.

So common were these dog names amongst the working classes that their resonance should pass via genetics to the succeeding generations. The name then reveals a practice of social distinction among social groups: naming a dog is yet another way of finding and fixating your place in the social structure, in the intricate (im)balance of power relations.

Hence Piloto the Third could only have been ‘Piloto’, no other name would have suited the role he was being ascribed in that family, by his lonely, aged and widowed guardian. Piloto was the single name that would make him the helping compass in the grieving process of this old man, floating through the lonely months to come. Both trying, together, to tie the knots of memories of people and dogs already gone, and turning emptiness and loss into joy and laughter.

But why was he named Piloto the Third? Who were Piloto the First and the Second? And why was it so important for Grandpa to name him after his ‘ancestors in role’?

Piloto the First was Grandpa’s dearest niece’s dog. Back then, as today, family roles were blurred, and this niece was to my grandfather, actually like a daughter. Her legendary beautiful mother had passed away while she was a little child. She was left to be raised with a father who soon re-married to a not so loving stepmother, who would leave her to starve and other forms of maltreatment, just like in children’s horror stories.  Eventually, her father – Grandpa’s brother – migrated to Argentina to make a living, and Maria, as she was called, stayed with her uncle (my Grandfather) and family, with whom she was raised until adult age, and her father returned.

Piloto the First was Maria’s little rescue dog. Actually, his main role was as company to my great grandfather, Maria’s (as well as my Mother’s) grandfather. The old man came to live with his son and family, sometime after his wife passed away. He was overwhelmed by grief. Everyday he would walk to the cemetery, taking his own little timber bench, and sat beside his wife’s grave. There he stayed, under the merciless sun, staring at the tomb and talking… to his wife, to her memory, to her soul. Piloto the First always accompanied him. He lay on the floor, patiently, while the old man grieved. The little granddaughter (my aunt) often went along as well, and kept them company. The hours passed peacefully by; they even got locked in once, inside the graveyard.

Piloto did not wait for the old man, as though he wanted him to do something different, such as going back home, or walking in the park. No. He simply was there, with him. Kept him company. Unconditionally accepting what he was doing, sitting endlessly in the graveyard while talking with someone who was dead.  Unconditionally accepting what he was being, an old man going through a complicated grief process, that had lost not only his wife, but his life compass and a proper reason to stay alive. Piloto the First did not ask himself questions about all this, I believe. He just went, every single day, even ahead of his guardian friend, reaching the cemetery in advance and finding the best-shadowed spot to spend the rest of the day.

After 6 months, my great-grandfather did not resist and passed away as well. Of grief? Of sadness? Because he simply did not want to live anymore? Six months was the time he survived his wife, as if to prepare himself to join her as soon as possible. But Piloto the First could not join him. Therefore, he kept going to the cemetery every day. Confused, he would look for the old man, and lie near what was now also his tomb. He knew his way by heart, of course. And so off he went. Did he wonder about what had happened to the old man? Or did he know? Piloto the First would eventually die of old age. What happened to his body is uncertain, but according to the customs of that time (the early 1950’s in Portugal) he would have probably been buried in the woods nearby. This was Piloto the First.

After only a few years, Piloto the Second entered the life of the family. He was also a rescue dog and was given to my 5 or 6-year-old aunt, as her little pet. But in the end, he was everyone’s pet. He stayed for hours in my Grandfather’s coffee shop, entertaining the clients, who already knew him and cherished him. He made them laugh with his pranks, and they would usually buy him quite unhealthy treats, such as candy bars and sugar drops, as a way to indulge him for the joy and good spirits he would bring with him. Also, in the story that my human family have told and retold about him over the years, he would listen for the car of Maria (my Grandfather’s niece, remember?) while she was still several kilometers away from town. Most of all people, he loved her. And she loved him. Every time she came over, it was as if they hadn’t seen each other forever. Eventually, he also passed away of old age. The destiny of his body is also uncertain. The family mourned and grieved mainly through his narrated memory, across generations. And this was Piloto the Second.

It took my Grandfather around 40 years to take home ‘another Piloto’. Because a Piloto in the family carried, despite being completely unaware of it, all the affective memory of his ancestors in name, if not in blood. And the act of taking in ‘another Piloto’ demanded from the humans thereafter living with him, the will and the emotional capability of living not only with that particular individual, but also with all the living memories of the ones that had preceded him. The emotional ability to endure the rupture of the rules of linear time, and the haunting of past affective figures that coexisted in more or less harmonious ways with the ones living in the present.

And that is where Piloto the Third enters the story. During my grandfather’s last year of life, Piloto the Third was his full companion. The challenges of having a puppy soon hit Grandpa’s life. A whole new routine invaded their days, pervasively. They would leave the house very early in the morning, so Piloto could pee and poop. And because there were so many stairs to climb back to reach the flat, Grandpa would often leave Piloto outside, in the garden, while he went for coffee, the morning newspaper, or simply for a walk. Also, Piloto was a bit of a fugitive himself: he would often flee and run all over the town, with his gang of stray dogs, returning with what almost looked like a shameless smile, with no regrets whatsoever for the worries Grandpa had been through because of him. And then he would curl up at the foot of his bed, and snore deeply into a world of dreams and nightmares, in which we could still hear the sound of his past adventures chasing or fighting other dogs.

When Grandpa died, two years after Grandma, and one year after Piloto had entered the family, I already had my sentence. Many times, after each Sunday roast, Grandpa had declared that Piloto was our – my Mother’s and mine – inheritance. Even if he hadn’t declared it, this was as it was meant to be. Because since the very first day, Piloto had clung to me in such a particular way that I knew we could never be set apart. We were like two castaways from a drowning ship of memory. Together, we were liberating ourselves from the pain of loss, and the despair of enduring the void and loneliness that follows it.

For another 13 years, Piloto lived with me. Keeping him inside was actually a talent. He often stayed outside overnight and came back home late the next morning, exhausted and exhaling the smells of freedom wrapped up in mood and litter. But that is another story, to be told another day: the story of Piloto’s life, during the years that followed. Today, we stick to the importance of his being (a) Piloto. He taught me everything about love, connection, freedom, respect for the Other, fear of loss, pain and illness, and eventually the inescapability of death. He was my gateway to both joy and living mindfully in the moment; and to my family’s past, most of all Grandpa’s memory living inside me. For another 13 years, until he finally had to be put to sleep at 14, Piloto kept Grandpa alive, and with him all the stories he used to tell over and over again, about his ‘Piloto ancestors’. It was not until his own death that my grieving process for Grandpa had its closure. Mourning Piloto, in the years that followed, was a complex process in which many other people and things were also mourned. And in which the present could finally come to terms with the past, the possibility of a future with the burden of the family’s memory. It meant learning how to live without some of the most important cornerstones of my life. With a slightly frightening and exhilarating sense of freedom. And that was part of the importance of being (a) Piloto.

Nodyn am Piloto

‘A name that he could catch without difficulty directly through genetics, as it must have been in the cases of Fiel and Piloto.’ José Saramago, O Homem Duplicado [The Double]. Handwritten in the back cover of a notebook with messages of condolences.


Pwysigrwydd o fod yn Piloto

Dyma draethawd gan blogwr gwadd, Verónica Policarpo, @VMPolicarpo. Hoffwn ddiolch iddi hi am rannu ei stori creadigol ar y mater o enwau yn ein bywydau pob dydd, ac, yn yr achos yma, yng nghyd-destun anifeiliaid anwes.

For an English version of this essay, please click here.

Portread o piloto_well

Portread o Piloto y trydydd. Teyrnged gan ffrind.

Wrth i ffon y tŷ ganu’r diwrnod hwnnw, roedd hi fel petai’n dod a dôn o ddisgwyliad a llawenydd y dyfodol hefo hi. Taid oedd yna. ‘Dewch’, meddai. ‘Dewch rŵan, a gweld y syrpréis sydd yma i chi’. Felly, yn ôl fy arfer, pryd bynnag yr oedd taid yn galw, gadewais bob dim a rhedeg i’w gartref. Roeddwn yn 21 ar y pryd. Roedd nain wedi marw’r flwyddyn gynt, ac roedd ei hymadawiad wedi ein gadael ni, fi a thaid, yn teimlo’n unig ac ar goll yn y byd; y tu fewn i ni thyfodd y teimlad anhydraeth o gael ein hepgor, fel ein bod ni nawr yn amddifaid ac yn bwhwman. Wrth i mi frysio i’w fflat, meddyliais beth all y sypréis fod, ac roedd awydd mawr gen i gael gwybod.

Cyrhaeddais y fflat yn ebychu, ar ôl dringo’r grisiau mewn brys. Dilynais daid i’r gegin. ‘Hoffwn i chi gwrdd â Piloto III (y trydydd)’, meddai. ‘Etifedd llinach hir o Pilotoau yn ein teulu.’

Roedd fy llygaid yn lled agored wrth i mi syllu ar y creadur bach, a oedd wrthi’n gorffwys mewn hen focs carton budur. Roedd yn anifail crwydr frown, yn crynu yn ei dwll, a’i lygaid yn ddwy farblen ddisglair. Pan mae pobl yn sôn am ‘cariad ar welediad cyntaf’, ei drem ef sydd yn dŵad i fy meddwl yn syth. Ei bregusrwydd cain yn llifo o’i lygaid, yn ddiymadferth.

Anwesais ef ar un waith. Mi roedd yn dew ac yn fudur, gyda chwain yn neidio o’i gwmpas. Yr eiliad honno, ddaeth ei fywyd i fod yn rhan o fy mywyd i. Y penderfyniad cyntaf: i alw rhai pobl i ddod i gwrdd ag ef! Fy mam, cefnder, ffrindiau gorau, cwpl o ffrindiau eraill oedd yn ci-garwyr fel fi. ‘Dewch! Cyn gynted a fedrwch chi! Mae yna rywun newydd yn ein teulu. Mae’n rhaid i chi ei gyfarfod ar unwaith!’

Dyma sut ddaeth Piloto’r Trydydd i mewn i fy mywyd. Fo oedd y trydydd mewn llinach hir o gŵn teuluol, pob un yn anifail crwydr wedi ei hachub. Mae eu stori nhw felly yn cwmpasu stori ein teulu, yn rhannol o leiaf. Mae hi wedi ei phlethu mewn i sut wnaeth y teulu pasio trwy amser a hanes, gan adeiladu ei hunaniaeth a chofion ar hyd y ffordd.

Yma, mae’n bwysig i mi ddweud fod Piloto yw’r fersiwn Portiwgaleg o ‘Bobby’. Yn yr ystyr yr oedd, ar un tro, yn un o’r enwau fwyaf poblogaidd a rhoddir ar gŵn domestig mewn cynefinoedd cymdeithasol penodol. Os awn yn ôl mewn amser, rhyw 50 i 80 mlynedd yn ôl, mae’n debyg y byddem yn ffeindio llond o gŵn hefo’r enw ‘Piloto’ ymysg y cymunedau dosbarth gweithiol, mewn ardaloedd gwledig a trefol. Fel y dywedir y Nobel o lenyddiaeth Portiwgaleg, José Saramago, yn un o’i lyfrau:

‘Enw y gall  [y ci] ei ddal heb drafferth yn syth trwy’r genynnau, fel mae’n debyg ei fod wedi bod yn achosion Fiel a Piloto.’

Mor gyffredin roedd yr enwau yma am gŵn ymysg y dosbarth gweithiol, fel tyle eu cyseiniant pasio trwy enynnau i’r cenedlaethau olynol. Mae’r enw felly yn datgelu arfer o wahaniaeth cymdeithasol ymysg grwpiau cymdeithasol: mae enwi ci yn ffordd ychwanegol o ddarganfod a gosod eich lle yn y strwythur cymdeithasol, yn yr (ang)hydbwysedd cymhleth o berthnasau pŵer.

Gan hynny, dim ond ‘Piloto’ y gall Piloto’r Trydydd cael ei henwi, ni fyddai unrhyw enw arall wedi siwtio’r rôl o fewn y teulu yr oedd yn cael ei ymestyn iddo, gan ei gwarcheidwad unig, oedrannus, gweddw. Piloto oedd yr unig enw y byddai’n ei wneud yn gwmpawd cefnogol mewn proses galaru’r hen ddyn yma, wrth iddo fwhwman trwy’r misoedd unig i ddŵad. Y ddau ohonynt yn trio, hefo’i gilydd, i clymu cofion y pobl a’r cŵ n o’r gorffennol, a throi’r gwactod a cholled oddi mewn, i fod yn lawenydd a chwerthin oddi allan.

Ond pam mai Piloto’r Trydydd oedd ei enw? Pwy oedd Piloto’r Cyntaf a’r Ail? A pam roedd hi mor bwysig i Daid ei enwi ar ôl ei ‘hynafiaid yn y rôl’?

Piloto’r Cyntaf oedd ci nith anwylaf Taid. Yn y dyddiau hynny, fel ag y maent rŵan, mi roedd rolau teulu’n niwlog, ac mi roedd y nith yma, i fy Nhaid, fel merch mewn gwirionedd. Mi roedd ei Mam chwedlonol brydferth wedi marw pan roedd hi’n blentyn ifanc. Gaeth ei gadael i gael ei magu gan Dad wnaeth ailbriodi yn fuan, i lysfam lai na chariadus, fyddai’n ei gadael i lwgu a mathau eraill o gamdriniaeth, yn debyg i’r hyn a ddigwyddith mewn storïau arswyd i blant. O’r diwedd, mi wnaeth ei Thad – brawd Taid – ymfudo i Argentina er mwyn ennill bywoliaeth, ac mi wnaeth Maria, dyna oedd ei henw, aros hefo’i ewythr (fy Nhaid) a’i deulu, a gyda hwy cafodd ei fagu nes ei bod yn oedolyn, a ddychwelodd ei Thad.

Mi roedd Piloto’r Cyntaf yn gi bach wnaeth Maria ei hachub. Mewn gwirionedd, ei brif rôl oedd rhoi cwmni i fy hen Daid, sef Taid Maria a fy Mam i. Daeth yr hen ddyn i fyw hefo’i mab a’i deulu, rhywbryd ar ôl i’w wraig farw. Roedd e wedi ei gorlethu a galar. Pob dydd byddai’n cerdded i’r fynwent, gan gymryd hefo fo ei mainc bren fach ei hun, er mwyn eistedd ger bedd ei wraig. Yno fu’n aros, o dan yr haul didrugaredd, yn syllu ar y bedd ac yn siarad…i’w wraig, i’w cof a’i enaid. Wnaeth Piloto’r Cyntaf gwastad mynd hefo fo. Gorweddai ar y llawr, yn amyneddgar, wrth i’r hen ddyn galaru. Yn aml, mi aeth y wyres fach (fy modryb) hefo fo hefyd, i gadw cwmpeini iddynt. Pasiodd yr oriau’n heddychlon; unwaith, wnaethon nhw hyd yn oed cael eu cloi mewn yn y fynwent.

Nid oedd Piloto yn aros am yr hen ddyn, fel petai eisiau iddo wneud rhywbeth arall, fel mynd yn ôl adref, neu gerdded yn y parc. Na. Yn syml, mi roedd o yna, hefo fo. Yn cadw cwmpeini iddo. Yn ddiamod yn derbyn yr hyn yr oedd yn ei wneud, yn eistedd yn ddi-baid yn y fynwent wrth siarad hefo rhywun oedd wedi marw. Yn ddiamod yn derbyn yr hyn yr oedd yn bod, hen ddyn a oedd yn mynd trwy broses galaru cymhleth, a oedd wedi colli nid yn unig ei wraig ond ei chwmpawd bywyd a’i reswm priodol am aros yn fyw. Ni wnaeth Piloto’r Cyntaf gofyn cwestiynau i’w hun am hyn i gyd, rwy’n credu. Mi aeth o, pob diwrnod, hyd yn oed o flaen ei gwarcheidwad ffrind, gan gyrraedd y fynwent ymlaen llaw gan ffeindio’r lleoliad gorau, wedi ei chysgodi o’r haul, i wario gweddill y diwrnod.

Ar ôl 6 mis, mi wnaeth fy hen-daid rhoi’r gorau i wrthsefyll, a bu farw hefyd. O alar? O dristwch? Oherwydd, yn syml, gan nad oedd am fyw rhagor? Chwech mis fydd iddo fyw heb ei wraig, fel petai’n paratoi ei hun i ymuno a hi cyn gynted ag oedd yn bosib. Ond ni all Piloto’r Cyntaf ymuno ag ef. Felly, parhaodd i fynd i’r fynwent pob diwrnod. Fel petai wedi drysu, chwiliodd am yr hen ddyn, gan orwedd wrth beth y nawr oedd yn fedd iddo. Roedd yn gwybod ei ffordd yno fel cefn ei law, wrth gwrs. Ac felly fwrdd a fo. A oedd e’n ystyried beth oedd wedi digwydd i’r hen ddyn? Neu a oedd e’n gwybod? Fu farw Piloto’r Cyntaf o henaint, yn y diwedd. Mae beth ddigwyddodd i’w gorff yn ansicr, ond yn ôl yr arfer ar y pryd (y 1950au yn Portiwgal) mae’n debyg y byddai wedi cael ei chladdu yn y goedwig ger llaw. Dyma oedd Piloto’r Cyntaf.

Ar ôl ddim ond ychydig flynyddoedd, daeth Piloto’r Ail i mewn i fywyd y teulu. Mi roedd ef hefyd yn gi roeddem wedi ei hachub, a chafodd ei roi i fy modryb a oedd yn 5 i 6 mlwydd oed, fel anifail anwes. Ond erbyn y diwedd, mi roedd yn anifail anwes i bawb. Arhosodd am oriau yn siop goffi fy nhaid, gan ddifyrru cwsmeriaid, a oedd yn barod yn ei nabod ac yn ei thrysori. Wnaeth iddyn nhw chwerthin hefo’i phranciau, a byddent yn prynu iddo foethau afiach, megis fferins, fel modd i borthi ef am y llawenydd ag ysbryd da yr oedd yn ei ddarparu. Hefyd, yn y stori y mae fy nheulu dynol ryw wedi dweud ac ail-ddweud amdano dros y blynyddoedd, byddai’n gwrando am gar Maria (nith fy Nhaid, cofia?) tra roedd hi’n sawl kilometr o’r dref. O bawb, mi roedd yn ei charu hi. Ac mi roedd hi’n ei garu ef. Pob tro ddaeth draw, mi roedd fel tasent nhw heb weld ei gilydd am hydoedd. Yn y pen draw, mi wnaeth Piloto’r Ail hefyd farw o henaint. Mae tynged ei gorff hefyd yn ansicr. Mi wnaeth y teulu galaru, yn bennaf trwy ei chofiannau wedi ei hadrodd ar lafar, ar draws y cenhedloedd. Dyma oedd Piloto’r Ail.

Mi wnaeth gymryd fy Nhaid tua 40 mlynedd i gymryd ‘Piloto arall’. Oherwydd bod Piloto yn y teulu’n cario hefo fo, er gwaetha’r ffaith nad oeddent yn ymwybodol o’r beth, cofion cyfan hynafiaid yr enw, er nad oedd hyn trwy waed. Ac mi roedd y weithred o gymryd ‘Piloto arall’ i mewn i’r teulu yn galw ar y bodau dynol yn y teulu i fyw hefo fo, gan gynnwys yr ewyllys a’r gallu emosiynol i fyw hefo’r unigolyn penodol yna, ond hefyd i fyw hefo’r cofion byw am y rhai fuodd cynt. Yr allu emosiynol i ddioddef y rhwyg o reolau mewn amser llinellol, a’r aflonyddwch o ffigyrau’r gorffennol sy’n cyd-fyw mewn modd fwy neu lai mewn cytgord hefo’r rhai sy’n byw yn y presennol.

A dyma le mae Piloto’r Trydydd yn dod i mewn i’r stori. Yn ystod flwyddyn olaf o fywyd fy Nhaid, mi roedd Piloto’r Trydydd yn cymar llawn iddo. Wnaeth heriau cael ci bach taro bywyd Taid yn fuan iawn wedyn. Daeth trefn cwbl newydd i oresgyn ei ddyddiau, yn dreiddiol. Roeddent yn gadael y tŷ yn fuan iawn yn y bore, i Piloto gael mynd i’r tŷ bach. Ac oherwydd bod yna cymaint o risiau i’w ddringo yn ôl i gyrraedd y fflat, roedd Taid yn aml yn gadael Piloto tu allan, yn yr ardd, pan aeth am goffi, papur newydd boreol, neu yn syml am dro. Hefyd, mi roedd Piloto braidd yn ffoadur ei hun: fuodd yn aml yn dianc ac yn rhedeg trwy’r dref, hefo’i gang o gŵn crwydrol, gan ddychwelyd gyda beth oedd yn edrych fel gwen ddigywilydd, ddim yn difaru o gwbl am y poeni yr oedd wedi achosi i Daid. Yna byddai’n cyrlio’i hun wrth droed ei wely, gan chwyrnu’n ddwfn mewn byd o freuddwydion a hunllefau, lle fedrwn dal clywed ôl ei anturiaethau o helfa neu ymladd hefo cŵn eraill.

Pan fu farw Taid, dwy flynedd ar ôl i Nain farw, ac un flwyddyn ar ôl i Piloto dŵad i mewn i’r teulu, roedd gen i fy nedfryd yn barod. Sawl gwaith, ar ôl pob cinio Sul, fu Taid yn datgan fod Piloto yn etifeddiaeth i fi a fy Mam. Hyd yn oed os nad oedd wedi ei ddatgan, dyma oedd fod i ddigwydd. Oherwydd, ers y diwrnod cyntaf, mi roedd Piloto wedi glynu ataf mewn ffordd mor benodol, fel roeddwn yn gwybod na fedrwn ni byth cael ein gwahanu. Roeddem fel dau llongddrylliedig o ryw gof o long wedi ei boddi. Hefo’n gilydd, mi roedden ni yn rhyddhau ein hunain o’r poen o golled, a’r anobaith o ddioddef y gwagle ac unigrwydd sydd yn ei ddilyn.

Am 13 mlynedd arall, fu Piloto yn byw hefo fi. Mi roedd cadw fe tu fewn yn dalent. Fuodd yn aml yn aros allan trwy’r nos gan ddŵad yn ôl yn y bore, wedi blino’n lan ac yn allananadlu’r arogl o ryddid. Ond mae hynna’n stori arall, i gael ei hadrodd rhywbryd arall: stori o fywyd Piloto, yn y blynyddoedd i ddod. Heddiw, mi wnawn ni cadw at bwysigrwydd iddo fod yn Piloto (un ohonynt).

Mi wnaeth ddysgu pob dim i mi am gariad, cysylltiad, rhyddid, parch i’r Arall, ofn o golled, poen a salwch, ac yn y diwedd y ffaith fod hi ddim yn bosib dianc rhag marw. Roedd o yn borth i mi at lawenydd a byw yn ystyriol yn y foment; ac i orffennol fy nheulu, a fwy na dim, yr atgof o Daid y tu fewn i mi. Am 13 mlynedd ymhellach, nes cafodd ei rhoi i gysgu yn 14 mlwydd oed, cadwodd Piloto Taid yn fyw, a gyda fe, yr holl storïau roedd yn ei hadrodd drosodd a drosodd, am ‘Piloto a’i hynafiaid’. Doedd hi ddim tan ei farwolaeth ef y daeth fy mhroses galaru am fy nhaid i derfyn. Roedd galaru am Piloto, yn y blynyddoedd wnaeth ddilyn, yn broses cymhleth ac mi roedd llond o bobl a phethau eraill yn cael ei galaru ar yr un pryd. Lle’r oedd yn bosib i’r presennol dod i delerau â’r gorffennol, a’r posibiliad o ddyfodol hefo’r baich o atgofion teuluol. Golygai dysgu sut i fyw heb rhai o’r clustfeini pwysicaf yn fy mywyd. Hefo synnwyr o ryddid oedd braidd yn frawychus a gyffroes. Ac mi roedd hynny yn rhan o’r pwysigrwydd o fod yn Piloto (un ohonynt).

Nodyn am Piloto

‘Enw y gall o ei ddal heb drafferth yn syth trwy’r genynnau, fel mae’n debyg ei fod wedi bod yn achosion Fiel a Piloto.’ José Saramago, O Homem Duplicado [Y dwbl]. Wedi ei ysgrifennu gan law ar orchudd cefn llyfr nodiadau hefo negeseuon o gydymdeimladau.

My father’s old thrupenny-bit bracelet (with apologies to Merêd!)

Am fersiwn Gymraeg o’r traethawd hwn, cliciwch ar y linc yma.

Freichled pishyn tair

*Authors note: This post was written originally in Welsh and the pun in the title is therefore somewhat lost in translation. Here I am making reference to an old Welsh folk song, the title of which translates as: ‘My grandfather’s old penny-farthing bike’; it was written by the song writer/ performer Meredydd Evans, who was known colloquially as ‘Merêd’

I’m not a follower of fashion, whether that be scholarly topic, perspective or methodology, music, or clothes. It’s no surprise, therefore, that my favourite piece of jewellery is something quite unusual – an heirloom of sorts, which has more sentimental value than monetary value; my father’s old thrupenny-bit bracelet.

During the Second World War, my grandfather, Edward Glyn Edwards (Glyn), was over in Germany for the first few years of my father’s life. Before he returned, he had a bracelet made for him as a present. The strap of the bracelet is made from thrupenny-bit coins, attached to each other in a row. Then, in the centre of the wrist, there’s a silver plate with my father’s forename on it, which is Raymond.

Now then, my father was born and raised in the village of Rhosllannerchrugog during the 1940s. At this time, the numerous coal mines in the area were still thriving, as well as the famous red bricks industry in nearby Ruabon, and as a result the village was prosperous. The village is renowned, during this period, for having a traditional coal mining culture, like the one written about by Dennis Potter in relation to ‘The Forest of Dean’ – that is: a close-knit community with choirs, chapels, playing bowls, and a dialect unique to the area.

The dialect is an issue which is of great interest to me, since I speak it (to an extent anyway), and this will be the subject of a future essay; however, the important thing here is to note that it was a Welsh dialect. Indeed, Welsh was the language of everyday life in the community when my father was born, and he didn’t start learning English until he began attending school.

English names for Welsh children?

So, if we consider that Welsh was the language of the community, and that my father’s parents had names which would be considered ‘Welsh’, so Alwen and Glyn, why then did they give my father the name ‘Raymond’? Apparently (Wikipedia), Raymond was borrowed into English from French, having first been borrowed from German; so, it isn’t a Welsh name nor has it any connection to the area.

Well, you may say, perhaps his parents knew someone named Raymond, or they had read it somewhere – perhaps a character in a book? But my aunty, my father’s sister, was given the name ‘Brenda’, which is, apparently (Wikipedia) a name given in the English language (though, through preparing for this article, I have read that Brenda was in the medieval legend of Madoc, so perhaps this name does have some Welsh roots).

If we consider that many of my father’s school friends from the area also had names which would index for English, such as Richard and John, it seems more likely that there was some kind of pattern/ trend during this time period, rather than the whimsy of my grandparents.

Anecdotally, I would suggest that there is an observable trend across the generations, where people from my grandparents’ generation had very Welsh names, then a pattern emerged of very English names, which lasted until sometime in the 1980s, when there was, perhaps, a shift, and then we see Welsher names becoming more popular and obvious. These days, there are many children and young people with very Welsh names. It is possible that this trend, and period, varies from area to area.

A possible explanation for this trend, is that Welsh speaking Welsh people, at a certain point in time, and in certain areas, decided to give English or Anglicized names to their children, in order for them to be able to fit in and ‘get on’ and thrive. There are certainly times in our history when lots of Welsh speaking Welsh people have moved across the border and beyond, in order to find work and a better life for themselves, so it would make sense that they might want to adapt their names as well, to fit in with their new environment.

Also, since the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543, the traditional patronymic system had gradually been replaced by the English surname system – so ab Owen became Bowen (Rowlands & Rowlands, 2013, page 9-29). So, changing forenames would have been a continuation of this trend.

Pragmatic decisions in linguistic and cultural minority communities?

There is a certain amount of support for this idea if we consider naming patterns in other minority communities. For example, in discussing the work and identity of Stanley Kubrick, the New York Jewish film director, Abrams (2018) discusses the fact that Jewish immigrants to America adapted their names in order to fit in. Kubrick’s parents were a part of this trend, with his father having changed his Jewish name ‘Jacob’ to ‘Jack’ (page 2). According to Abrams, there was also a trend amongst immigrants to choose ‘regal-sounding’ names for their children, such as ‘Stanley’ or ‘Leonard’, in order to improve the opportunities of their sons for social mobility (page 223).

We can then consider, anecdotally, that the trend may have done an about turn, to some degree – at least from the point of view of Welsh names. I would argue that we see lots of children today with very Welsh forenames, and their parents show pride in their Welshness in selecting names for their children. Also, perhaps adults are deciding to do the opposite of what Jacob Kubrick did, in that they Welshify their names, for example changing Stephen to Stifyn, and Rebecca to Beca etc.

Interestingly enough, it is likely that the privilege and opportunities happen each way. So, if a ‘regal-sounding’ name (and I would add, a name which ‘indexes for English’) would give a certain amount of ‘privilege’ to Jewish/ Welsh children in a certain time period and in some contexts, perhaps now Jewish/ Welsh names extend the same kinds of privilege and opportunities. Personally, I have felt this, as I changed my surname from ‘Edwards’ to ‘Wheeler’, and the reaction I receive as a ‘Welsh person’ – but this is the topic of another essay (to come!)

Onomastic research in a Welsh context

These are the sorts of matters I have been discussing and considering in my most recent journal article:

“Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of “White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective.

The link to the published article is here, but you will need a university password to get access, so you can also gain access to the pre-formatted version for free here.

However, obviously what is needed now, on this particular issue, is some quantitative research to map the naming trends across the generations, to see if there is an explainable pattern; I am hoping to make a grant application to research the matter further and I would be interested in hearing from anyone who would be interested in working on this with me. I would like to hear your ideas generally – do you agree, disagree, or have similar or different views? My e-mail address is on my contacts page, or you can leave a comment at the bottom of this essay, so that we can start a discussion.

An old penny-farthing bike, an old thrupenny-bit bracelet…

So back to the thrupenny-bit bracelet and we can see that it’s a cultural artefact of possible trends or patterns in Welsh naming practices and traditions. And, to bring us back to the pun in the title of this blog entry from the song ‘Hen Feic peni-fardding fy nhaid’ (‘My grandfather’s old penny-farthing bike’)1, it is symbolic of the fact that I, like the character in the song, tend to favour traditional old-fashioned goods, instead of following the crowd!


  1. The song was written by Meredydd Evans – ‘Merêd’.


Abrams, N. (2018) Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual. New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press.

Amgueddfa Cymru (no date) Tafodiaith Rhosllannerchrugog. Available at: (Accessed: 13 Awst 2015).

Jones, Mari, C. (1998) ‘Case Study II: The Rhosllannerchrugog Dialect’, in Language Obsolescence and Revitalization: Linguistic change in two sociolinguistically contrasting Welsh communities. Oxford: Clarendon press, Pages. 155–238.

Potter, D. (1996) The Changing Forest: Life in the Forest of Dean Today. London: Vintage.

Rowlands, J. and Rowlands, S. (2013) The Surnames of Wales – updated and expanded. Ceredigion: Gomer Press.

Wheeler, S. L. (2018) ‘“Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of “White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective’, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, July 23rd, pp. 1–9.

Wheeler, S.L. (2018) ‘”Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of ‘White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective’, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. Pre-formatted version.

Hen freichled pishyn tair fy nhad (gydag ymddiheuriadau i Merêd!)

Freichled pishyn tair

For an English version of this essay, please click on the link here.

Dwi ddim yn un am ddilyn ffasiwn, boed e’n bwnc, persbectif neu fethodoleg ysgolhaig, cerddoriaeth, neu ddillad. Nid yw’n syndod felly, fod fy hoff ddarn o emwaith yn rhywbeth ddigon anghyffredin – eiddo etifeddol o ryw fath, a ganddi fwy o werth sentimental nag ariannol; hen freichled pishyn tair fy nhad.

Yn ystod yr ail ryfel byd, fuodd fy nhaid, Edward Glyn Edwards (Glyn), allan yn yr Almaen am flynyddoedd cynnar bywyd fy nhad. Cyn iddo ddychwelyd, cafodd freichled ei wneud iddo fel anrheg. Mae strap y freichled wedi ei wneud o geiniogau pishyn tair, wedi eu bachu gyda’i gilydd mewn rhes. Yna, yng nghanol yr arddwrn, mae plât arian hefo enw cyntaf fy nhad arno, sef Raymond.

Nawr ta, ganwyd a magwyd fy nhad ym mhentref Rhosllannerchrugog yn ystod y 1940au. Ar yr adeg yma, mi roedd pyllau glo niferus yr ardal yn dal i ffynnu, yn ogystal â’r diwydiant brics coch enwog yn Rhiwabon gerllaw, ac o ganlyniad mi roedd y pentref yn llewyrchus. Mae’r pentref yn adnabyddus, yn y cyfnod yma, am ei ddiwylliant traddodiadol ardal glo, megis yr hyn a sgwennwyd amdani gan Dennis Potter am ardal ‘The Forest of Dean’ – hynny ydy: cymuned glôs hefo corau, capeli, chwarae bowls, a thafodiaith unigryw i’r ardal.

Mae mater y dafodiaith yn un sydd o ddiddordeb mawr i mi, gan fy mod innau yn ei siarad (i raddau beth bynnag), ac mi fydd hyn yn destun traethawd arall yn y dyfodol; ond y peth pwysig yma yw ei bod hi’n dafodiaith Cymraeg. Yn wir, Cymraeg oedd iaith bywyd pob dydd y gymuned pan ganwyd fy nhad, ac ni ddechreuodd ddysgu Saesneg nes iddo fynychu’r ysgol.

Enwau Saesneg i blant Cymraeg?

Felly, os ystyriwn mai Cymraeg oedd iaith y gymuned, a bod rhieni fy nhad hefo enwau fyddai’n cael ei ystyried yn ‘Gymraeg’, sef Alwen a Glyn, pam felly rhoddwyd yr enw ‘Raymond’ i fy nhad? Yn ôl pob sôn (Wikipedia), benthycwyd yr enw Raymond i mewn i’r Saesneg o’r Ffrangeg, a hithau’n wreiddiol o’r Almaeneg; felly nid yw’n enw Gymraeg nag yn un sy’n gysylltiedig â’r ardal.

Wel medde chwi, efallai roedd ei rieni yn nabod rhywun o’r enw Raymond, neu wedi ei ddarllen yn rhywle – megis enw cymeriad mewn llyfr, neu jest yn ei hoffi? Ond galwyd fy modryb, chwaer fy nhad, yn ‘Brenda’, sydd, yn ôl pob sôn (Wikipedia) yn enw a rhoddir yn yr iaith Saesneg (er, trwy baratoi at yr erthygl yma, gwelais fod Brenda yn chwedl Madoc, felly efallai fod yna wreiddiau fwy Cymraeg i hyn).

Os ystyriwn fod llond o ffrindiau ysgol fy nhad o’r ardal hefyd hefo enwau fyddai’n indecsio am Saesneg, megis Richard a John, mae’n edrych yn fwy tebygol fod yna rhyw batrwm enwi penodol yn ystod y cyfnod yma, yn hytrach na chwimsi fy nain a thaid.

Yn anecdotaidd, fyswn yn cynnig fod yna batrwm i’w weld dros y cenedlaethau, lle’r oedd gan genhedlaeth nain a thaid enwau tra Gymraeg, yna dechreuodd patrwm o enwau tra Saesneg, a pharodd tan rywbryd yn ystod yr wythdegau, lle fuodd, efallai, shifft, ac yna gwelsom enwau fwy Cymraeg yn dod yn fwy poblogaidd ac amlwg. Erbyn heddiw, mae yna lond o blant a phobl ifanc hefo enwau tra Gymraeg. Mae’n debyg fod y tuedd, a’r cyfnod, yn amrywio o ardal i ardal.

Un esboniad posib am y tuedd, yw bod y Gymru Gymreig, ar adeg benodol, mewn ardaloedd penodol, wedi penderfynu rhoi enwau fwy Saesnegaidd i’w plant, er mwyn iddynt gael ffitio mewn a ‘dod yn ei blaenau’ i ffynnu. Wedi’r cwbl, mae yna gyfnodau yn ein hanes pan roedd llond o’r Cymry Cymraeg yn symud dros y ffin a thu hwnt, er mwyn cael gwaith a bywyd gwell i’w hunain, felly mae’n gwneud synnwyr y byddent eisiau addasu eu henwau i’w amgylchiadau newydd. Hefyd, ers y deddfau uno yn 1536 a 1543, mi roedd y system tadenwol yn raddol wedi ei disodli gan gyfenwau yn y system Saesneg – felly fysai ab Owen yn troi’n Bowen (Rowlands & Rowlands, 2013, tudalen 9-29). Felly fyddai newid enwau cyntaf yn barhad o’r tuedd yma.

Penderfyniadau pragmataidd cymunedau lleiafrifol ieithyddol a diwylliannol?

Mae rhywfaint o gefnogaeth am y syniad yma os ystyriwn batrymau enwi mewn cymunedau lleiafrifol eraill. Er enghraifft, wrth drafod gwaith a hunaniaeth Stanley Kubrick, y cyfarwyddwr ffilm Iddewig o Efrog Newydd, mae Abrams (2018) yn trafod y ffaith fod mewnfudwyr Iddewig i America wedi addasu eu henwau er mwyn ffitio mewn. Mi roedd rhieni Kubrick yn rhan o’r tuedd yma, gyda thad Kubrick yn newid ei enw Iddewig ‘Jacob’ i ‘Jack’ (tudalen 2). Yn ôl Abrams, mi roedd yna hefyd tuedd i’r mewnfudwyr yma dewis enwau ‘brenhinol’, i’w plant, megis ‘Stanley’ neu ‘Leonard’, er mwyn gwella cyfleon eu meibion am fudoledd cymdeithasol (tudalen 223).

Gallwn wedyn ystyried, eto’n anecdotaidd, fod y tuedd wedi troi’n wyneb i waered, i raddau – o leiaf o safbwynt enwau Cymraeg beth bynnag. Fyddwn yn dadlau ein bod yn gweld fwy o blant heddiw yn cael enwau cyntaf tra Gymraeg, gyda rhieni yn dangos balchder yn eu Cymreictod wrth benderfynu ar enwau i’w plant. Hefyd, efallai fod oedolion yn penderfynu gwneud y gwrthwyneb i’r hyn a wnaeth Jacob Kubrick, sef Cymreigio eu henwau, megis Stephen i Stifyn, Rebecca i Beca ayyb.

Yn ddiddorol iawn, mae’n debyg fod y fraint a’r cyfleoedd hefyd wedi digwydd y ddwy ffordd. Felly, lle fyddai enwau ‘brenhinol’, a hefyd fyddwn yn ychwanegu ‘yn indecsio am Saesneg’, yn rhoi rhywfaint o ‘fraint’ a ‘cyfle’ i blant Iddewig/ Cymraeg ar un cyfnod ac mewn rhai cyd-destunau, efallai nawr mae’r enwau Iddewig/ Cymraeg yma yn ennyn yr un math o freintiau a chyfleon. Teimlaf hyn yn bersonol, wrth i mi newid fy nghyfenw o ‘Edwards’ i ‘Wheeler’, a’r ymateb rwy’n ei chael fel ‘Cymraes’ – ond mae hyn yn destun traethawd ar ben ei hun (ar y gweill!)

Ymchwil onomasegaidd mewn cyd-destun Cymraeg

Dyma’r math o faterion yr wyf wedi ei thrafod a’i ystyried yn fy erthygl cyfnodolyn diweddaraf:

“Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of “White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective.

Mae’r linc i’r erthygl gyhoeddedig yma, ond mae angen cyfrinair prifysgol i gael mynediad, felly medrwch hefyd cael mynediad at y fersiwn cyn-fformatio yn rhad ac am ddim yma.

Ond yn amlwg, beth sydd angen rŵan, ar y mater penodol yma, yw gwaith ymchwil meintiol sydd yn mapio’r patrymau enwi dros y cenhedloedd perthnasol, i weld os oes batrymau esboniadwy; rwy’n gobeithio gwneud cais grant i archwilio’r mater ymhellach a byddai diddordeb gen i mewn clywed gan unrhyw un fyddai hefo diddordeb mewn gweithio ar hyn hefo fi. Hoffwn hefyd clywed eich syniadau yn gyffredinol – ydych chi’n cytuno, anghytuno, neu hefo syniadau tebyg/ cwbl wahanol? Mae fy nghyfeiriad e-bost ar y tudalen cyswllt, neu mi fedrwch adael sylwad ar ddiwedd y traethawd yma, i ni gael cychwyn trafodaeth.

Hen feic peni-ffardding, hen freichled pishyn tair…

Felly yn ôl at y freichled pishyn tair, a gwelwn ei fod yn arteffact diwylliannol o batrymau neu duedd posib o fewn traddodiadau enwau ac enwi Cymraeg. Ac, i’w glymu yn ôl at y mwysair yn deitl y blog am y gân ‘Hen feic peni-ffardding fy nhaid’1, mae’n symbolaidd o’r ffaith fy mod innau, fel y cymeriad yn y gân, yn tueddu i ffafrio nwyddau a thraddodiadau hen ffasiwn, yn hytrach na dilyn y dorf!


  1. Sgwennwyd gan Meredydd Evans – ‘Merêd’.



Abrams, N. (2018) Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual. New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press.

Amgueddfa Cymru (no date) Tafodiaith Rhosllannerchrugog. Ar gael: (Cyrchwyd: 13 Awst 2015).

Jones, Mari, C. (1998) ‘Case Study II: The Rhosllannerchrugog Dialect’, in Language Obsolescence and Revitalization: Linguistic change in two sociolinguistically contrasting Welsh communities. Oxford: Clarendon press, Tud. 155–238.

Potter, D. (1996) The Changing Forest: Life in the Forest of Dean Today. London: Vintage.

Rowlands, J. and Rowlands, S. (2013) The Surnames of Wales – updated and expanded. Ceredigion: Gomer Press.

Wheeler, S. L. (2018) ‘“Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of “White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective’, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, July 23rd, pp. 1–9.

Wheeler, S. L. (2018) ‘“Enwau Prydeinig gwyn?” Problematizing the idea of “White British” names and naming practices from a Welsh perspective’, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, Cyn-formatt, mynediad am ddim heb cyfrif.

Layers of semiotization in branding and advertising – playing with words and images

(Am fersiwn Gymraeg o’r erthygl yma, cliciwch yma)


I recently attended the ‘Everyday Creativity’ conference, at the Morgan Centre, University of Manchester – a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There were so many interesting people there, and the theme of ‘creativity’ brought a plethora of varied and fascinating talks. I gave a presentation about encouraging creativity and flair in undergraduate student essays; I received kind words from other delegates, and warm encouragement to write it up for publication – which I now feel emboldened to do. However, in terms of onomastic interests, there was one presentation which really stood out for me, and that was the keynote given by Professor Sue Heath and Dr Andy Balmer, entitled:

“Seeing through the lines: some lessons in observational drawing”.

This presentation drew on the recent collaborative ‘sketching research’ project between academics at the Morgan Centre and Lynne Chapman, a reportage artist. The research involved developing observational ‘ethnographic sketching’ as a research tool. This had brought some interesting insights as ‘sketching’, regardless of output quality, involves slowing down and engaging in what was termed ‘concentrated seeing’. As I listened to the explanation, it brought to mind the concept of ‘effortful listening’, which those of us with hearing loss are said to engage in. Amusingly, as I translanguaged this article, I realised that there was a similarity with this process and its effect also. All of these activities involve focussing on one particular thing, absorbing every detail and any available information, trying to understand it from a variety of angles – much like the concept of triangulation in social research. Interestingly, I had the opportunity to experience the benefits of ‘concentrated seeing’ during the keynote and it has caused me to consider incorporating ‘ethnographic sketching’ into my future projects.

Sketching and concentrated seeing

At the beginning of the presentation, the audience were invited, by the opening slide, to sketch something in the room. Obviously, since most of us were non-artists, we felt a bit self-conscious (certainly I have no talent in this direction!) However, as an onomastician, I soon found something of interest to draw – the University of Manchester logo, which adorned the front of the computer desk. I had a purple and a yellow highlighter, so I also set about getting the colour scheme right. As I wrote the word Manchester, I noticed, for the first time, that it was written in capitals, but the s and the t were not. Immediately beneath these letters, was the date: 1824. The Est and 1824 were also in yellow, where the rest of the writing was in white. I have seen this logo many times over the years, but have never noticed this detail.

Badly drawnlogo

At the end of the keynote I asked around and was told by people from the University of Manchester that this was to signify that the University of Manchester was ‘Established’ in 1824. I was astonished at my prior lack of perceptive skills with regards to the logo, but also impressed with what the ‘concentrated seeing’ had helped to reveal in my very first attempt. I am very much looking forward to reading more about this research technique in the forthcoming paper on the matter: ‘Observational sketching as method’.

Humument painting as a method of inquiry?

Another fascinating research technique which was discussed during the keynote, this time pertaining to the data analysis and participant verification stage, was that of adding layers of expression and meaning through painting. The technique drew on a very interesting art project – ‘A Humument’ by Tom Philips. Taking as its foundation an obscure Victorian book called ‘A Human Document’, Philips altered every page of the original monograph through painting, collage and cut-up techniques. Some words are left uncovered, creating a new narrative and bringing new meaning. The title also emerged through this technique, Philips explains:

The book’s rechristening resulted from another chance discovery. By folding one page in half and turning it back to reveal half of the following page, the running title at the top abridged itself to A HUMUMENT, an earthy word with echoes of humanity and monument as well as a sense of something hewn; or exhumed to end up in the muniment rooms of the archived world. I like even the effortful sound of it, pronounced as I prefer, HEW-MEW-MENT.

In applying this technique to the data collected during their project, Heath and Balmer invite participants from their study to semiotize transcripts of their interviews – so their own words as captured by the researchers – with layers of paint and other craft materials, also often with words left uncovered. Participants then also are encouraged to explain the layering and what it represents. Having previously used techniques such as ‘tape-assisted recall’ during the course of my research, I was impressed at the level of engagement that this technique might offer, and the depth of feeling and understanding which might be achieved. This is definitely a data analysis technique that I will also, therefore, be considering for future use in projects.

Upon leaving the lecture theatre I reflected on how, somewhat neatly and satisfyingly, my example of semiotized layers within the University of Manchester logo, revealed through my own ‘ethnographic sketching’ and ‘concentrated seeing’, also dovetailed with the ideas from the ‘Humument’ project – in that the purposeful use of colour and font revealed words, in this case within words, with additional meanings built in.

Semiotized layers and humument in the University of Manchester brand logo

According to Nuessel (2018), branding is a complex semiotic strategy, designed to call to the consumer’s mind a set of associations, intended to entice and persuade the consumer to purchase a particular product through a web of latent meanings. This is achieved through encompassing, within the brand, a constellation of meaningful cultural markers that generate an appealing product that satisfies not only the consumer’s palate, but also his or her subliminal needs and desires. Table 1 below outlines the possible chain of signification that alludes to specific referents and implied meanings, in relation to the logo of the University of Manchester:

Table 1: Chain of signification of the University of Manchester logo (adapted from Nuessel 2018)

Brand logo Referents Implied meanings


Use of uncapitalized lettering within the otherwise capitalized name of the University, revealing ‘Est’, short for established, with the addition of the date 1824 beneath.



Conveys the date that the University was established, which was in the 19th century; this may afford the University a certain degree of status, heritage and pedigree, since this is quite an early date of establishment and universities generally are keen to demonstrate a long history to their institutions.


Humorous use of humument in advertising and everyday life

Following the conference, I travelled home to the Wirral on the train. Since it was late, and I didn’t feel like cooking, I went into the village to get a take away; whilst there I popped into ‘Bargain Booze’, where I encountered an amusing example of playing with words within words. Behind the counter was a sign, in which every instance of the word ‘gin’, within other words on the sign, had been highlighted through the use of colour.


This amused me greatly and I would usually index these as ‘puns’, which I am very fond of (and will deal with in a separate blog entry). However, given the activities of the day, and my subsequent reflections, I think I will index this as an example of an everyday use of the ‘humument’ technique!


Nuessel, F. (2018). A note on selected craft beer brand names. Names: A Journal of Onomastics, 66(2).










Haenau semiotegol i brandio a hysbysebu – chwarae hefo geiriau a delweddau

(For an English version of this article, please click here).


Yn ddiweddar, mynychais cynhadledd ‘Creadigrwydd pob dydd’, yn Canolfan Morgan, Prifysgol Manceinion – profiad pleserus iawn. Mi roedd yna cymaint o bobl diddorol yna, ac mi wnaeth y thema o ‘creadigrwydd’ denu llond o cyflwyniadau amrywiol a difyr. Rhoddais cyflwyniad am annog creadigrwydd a dawn mewn traethodau myfyrwyr is-radd; fuodd y mynychwr eraill yn hael iawn am fy nghyflwyniad, gan estyn geiriau caredig, ac yn fy annog i’w paratoi hi at gael ei gyhoeddi – rhywbeth yr wyf y nawr yn teimlo’n hyderus i’w wneud. Fodd bynnag, o ran diddordeb onomastegaidd, cafodd un cyflwyniad argraff mawr arnaf, a hynny oedd y cyweirnod a rhoddir gan Yr Athro Sue Heath a Dr Andy Balmer, gyda’r teitl:

“Gweld trwy’r llinellau: rhai gwersi o dyluniad arsylwadol”.

Tynnodd y cyflwyniad yma ar eu prosiect diweddar ‘ymchwil braslunio’, sef prosiect ar y cyd rhwng ysgolheigion y Canolfan Morgan a Lynne Chapman, artist croniclo. Mi wnaeth yr ymchwil cynnwys datblygu ‘braslunio ethnograffaidd’ arsylwadol fel offeryn ymchwil. Mae hyn wedi datgelu nifer o mewnwelediadau diddorol gan fod ‘braslunio’, ta waeth am ansawdd yr allbwn, yn golygu arafu ac ymrwymo i beth a elwir yn ‘sbïo’n ddwys’. Wrth i mi wrando ar yr esboniad, wnaeth fy atgoffa o’r ‘gwrando’n ymdrechol’, sydd, yn ôl pob sôn, yn rhywbeth y mae ni sydd hefo nam clyw yn ei wneud. Yn ddigon ysmala hefyd, wrth trawsieithu’r erthygl hon, sylweddolaf fod yna tebygrwydd yn y broses a’r effaith o hyn hefyd. Mae’r gweithgareddau yma i gyd yn cynnwys canolbwyntio ar un peth penodol, gan ceisio dirnad pob manylyn o sawl ongl – ychydig fel y cysyniad o triongliant mewn ymchwil cymdeithasol. Yn ddigon ddiddorol, ges i’r cyfle i gael profiad o buddion ‘sbïo’n ddwys’ yn ystod y  cyweirnod ac mi wnaeth achosi i mi ystyried cynnwys ‘braslunio’n ethnograffaidd’ yn fy mhrosiectau yn y dyfodol.

Braslunio a sbïo’n ddwys

Ar ddechrau’r cyflwyniad, gwahoddwyd y cynulleidfa, trwy’r sleid gyntaf, i braslunio rhywbeth yn yr ystafell. Yn amlwg, gan nad oedd rhan fwyaf ohonom hefo unrhyw arbenigedd arlunio (yn sicr nid oes gen i talent yn y maes!) roedden ni braidd yn hunan ymwybodol. Fodd bynnag, fel onomastegydd, cafodd fy llygad ei ddenu i rhywbeth yn reit fuan – logo Prifysgol Manceinion, a oedd ar flaen y ddesg cyfrifiadur. Roedd gen i pennau amlygu porffor a melyn, felly roedd modd i mi cael y cynllun lliw yn iawn. Wrth i mi ysgrifennu’r gair ‘Manchester’, sylwais, am y tro cyntaf, ei fod wedi ei sgwennu mewn llythrennau mawr, ond fod yr ‘s’ a’r ‘t’ mewn llythrennau bach. O dan y llythrennau yma, roedd y dyddiad: 1824. Roedd yr Est a’r 1824 hefyd mewn melyn, lle roedd gweddill yr ysgrifen mewn gwyn. Rwyf wedi gweld y logo yma sawl gwaith dros y blynyddoedd, ond nid wyf erioed wedi sylwi’r manylyn yma.

Badly drawnlogo

Ar ddiwedd y cyweirnod, trafodais hyn hefo pobl eraill, a ces wybod gan ysgolheigion o Brifysgol Manceinion fod y manylyn yna i arwyddo fod Prifysgol Manceinion wedi ei ‘Established’ (sefydlu) yn 1824. Synnais ar fy diffyg medrau canfod blaenorol wrth ystyried y logo, ond hefyd gwelais yn glir buddion ‘sbïo’n ddwys’ gan ei fod, ar fy ymdrech cyntaf, wedi datgelu cymaint. Rwyf yn edrych ymlaen yn fawr iawn at darllen fwy am y techneg ymchwil yma yn y papur gerllaw am y mater, sef: ‘Observational sketching as method’ (‘Braslunio arsylwadol fel dull’).

Dylunio Humument fel dull o ymchwiliad?

Techneg ymchwil arall diddorol, a chafodd ei thrafod yn ystod y cyweirnod, y tro hyn yn ymwneud a dadansoddi data a’r cyfnod gwirio hefo cyfranogwyr, oedd y syniad o ychwanegu haenau o mynegiant ac ystyr trwy peintio. Mae’r techneg wedi tynnu ar prosiect celfyddydau diddorol – ‘A Humument’ gan Tom Philips. Gan cymryd fel ei sail llyfr di-nod Fictoraidd o’r enw ‘A Human document’, mi wnaeth Philips altro pob tudalen o’r monograff gwreiddiol trwy peintio, gludwaith a technegau torri-fyny. Roedd rhai geiriau yn cael ei adael heb ei gorchuddio, gan creu naratif newydd ac gan ychwanegu ystyr newydd. Ddaeth y teitl hefyd o’r techneg yma, fel mae Philips yn esbonio:

The book’s rechristening resulted from another chance discovery. By folding one page in half and turning it back to reveal half of the following page, the running title at the top abridged itself to A HUMUMENT, an earthy word with echoes of humanity and monument as well as a sense of something hewn; or exhumed to end up in the muniment rooms of the archived world. I like even the effortful sound of it, pronounced as I prefer, HEW-MEW-MENT.

Wrth gweithredu’r techneg yma hefo’r data a casglwyd o’u prosiect, mae Heath a Balmer yn gwahodd cyfranogwyr eu astudiaeth i semiotegeiddio’r trawsgrifiadau o’u cyfweliadau – felly eu geiriau nhw eu hunain fel y dalwyd gan yr ymchwilwyr – gyda haenau o paent a deunyddiau crefft eraill, gan hefyd gadael rhai geiriau heb eu orchuddio. Anogwyd hefyd i cyfranogwyr esbonio’r haenau a beth roeddent yn eu cynrychioli. Rhaid dweud, gan rwyf yn y gorffennol wedi defnyddio technegau ymchwil megis ‘hybu cofio trwy chwarae yn ôl’ (‘tape-assisted recall’), roedd yn trawiadol i mi y lefel o ymroddiad fyddai’n posib ei ennyn trwy’r techneg yma, a’r dyfnder o teimlad a dealltwriaeth y byddai’n bosib ei cyrraedd a’i cynnwys. Mae hyn yn sicr, felly, yn techneg dadansoddi data y byddaf, hefyd, yn ei ystyried mewn prosiectau gerllaw.

Wrth adael yr ystafell darlith, adlewyrchais fod fy enghraifft o haenau semiotegol o fewn logo Prifysgol Manceinion, wedi ei datgelu trwy fy ‘braslunio ethnograffaidd’ a ‘sbïo’n ddwys’, hefyd yn tryfalu, mewn modd dwt a boddhaol, hefo’r syniadau o’r prosiect ‘Humument’ – yn yr ystyr fod y defnydd bwrpasol o lliw a ffont yn datgelu geiriau, ac yn yr achos yma – geiriau o fewn geiriau, gyda ystyr ychwanegol wedi ei mewn-adeiladu.

Haenau semiotegol a humument yn logo brand Prifysgol Manceinion

Yn ôl Nuessel (2018), mae brandio yn strategaeth semioteg cymhleth, wedi ei dyfeisio er mwyn ennyn cyfres o cysylltiadau yn meddwl y prynwr, gyda’r bwriad o denu a dwyn perswâd ar y prynwr i ymofyn y nwydd penodol – ac mae’n gwneud hynny trwy rhwydwaith o ystyrion cuddiedig. Mae hyn yn cael ei chyflawni, o fewn y brand, trwy clwstwr o nodion diwylliannol sydd yn creu cynnyrch apelgar, sy’n bodloni nid yn unig taflod y prynwr, ond hefyd eu anghenion ac awyddau isganfyddol. Mae tabl 1 isod yn amlinellu’r cadwyn o arwyddocâd sy’n cyfeirio at cyfeirair penodol ac ystyr ymhlyg, mewn berthynas a logo Prifysgol Manceinion:

Tabl 1: Cadwyn o arwyddocâd logo Prifysgol Manceinion (wedi ei addasu o Nuessel 2018)

Logo Brand Cyfeireiriau Ystyr arwyddocaol






Defnydd llythrennau bach o fewn llythrennau mawr wrth sillafu enw’r Prifysgol, gan datgelu ‘Est’, sydd yn fyr am ‘Established’, gyda’r ychwanegiad o’r dyddiad 1824 o danodd.



Mae’n cyfleu’r dyddiad cafodd y Brifysgol ei sefydlu, a oedd yn y 19eg canrif; mi all hyn rhoi rhywfaint o statws, etifeddiaeth a llinach i’r Brifysgol, gan ei fod yn dyddiad eithaf cynnar yn hanes sefydlu prifysgolion ac mae prifysgolion yn gyffredinol yn awyddus i ddangos fod gan eu sefydliadau hanes cymharol hir.


Defnydd digri o humument i hysbysebu mewn bywyd pob dydd


Yn dilyn y gynhadledd, teithiais yn ôl i Cilgwri ar y trên. Gan ei fod yn weddol hwyr, a nid oedd awydd coginio arnaf, es lawr i’r pentref i cael têc awê; tra roeddwn ene, piciais i ‘Bargain Booze’, lle welais enghraifft digri o chwarae hefo geiriau o fewn geiriau. Y tu ôl i’r cownter roedd yna arwydd, ac arni mi roedd pob achos o’r gair ‘gin’, o fewn geiriau eraill, wedi ei amlygu trwy ei gosod mewn lliw a oedd yn wahanol i weddill y geiriau.


Mi wnaeth hyn wneud i fi giglan ac mi fyddaf fel arfer yn mynegeio hyn fel mwyseirio (pun) – sef rhywbeth yr wyf yn ei fwynhau’n arw (a mi wnaf sgwennu erthygl blog ar wahân ar y mater yma). Ond, oherwydd gweithgareddau’r diwrnod, a fy adlewyrchiadau dilynol, rwy’n meddwl y gwnaf ei mynegeio fel enghraifft o ddefnydd bywyd pob dydd o’r techneg o ‘humument’!


Nuessel, F. (2018). A note on selected craft beer brand names. Names: A Journal of Onomastics, 66(2).

Could there have been a literary compromise to the renaming of the bridge over the River Severn?

(Am fersiwn Gymraeg cliciwch yma).

For the last few months, I’ve been following with interest, the row over the proposed re-naming of a bridge over the River Severn – a bridge which connects South West England and South East Wales. What I hadn’t realized, until just recently, was that there are, in fact, two bridges over the River Severn: The first bridge, which was opened in 1966, is simply called ‘The Severn Bridge’. The second bridge, which was opened in 1996, is called ‘The Second Severn Crossing’. And to be clear, it is this latter bridge that the re-naming row relates to; The Severn Bridge is keeping its current name.

These bridge names are therefore similar and have caused some confusion during the recent media storm surrounding the issue. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that ‘The Second Severn Crossing’ isn’t really a name at all – it’s a description. I therefore find myself in the somewhat unexpected position of agreeing with current Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, in his assertion that the bridge needed to be renamed. However, I am also in agreement with the commentators and petitioners who felt that naming the bridge ‘The Prince of Wales Bridge’ was problematic and unimaginative. Indeed, it almost seems to be a default position for when people can’t be bothered thinking of a name for a hospital, pub, ship etc.

Anyway, after months of fierce debates, which included some somewhat unnecessary insults in the English press (which it has been argued is tantamount to racism towards Welsh speakers – with a direct attack on our language), it seems that the re-naming ceremony took place this week. It has been commented that this seems to have been downplayed until after the event, to keep publicity to a minimum. So, there we have it – ‘The Second Severn Crossing’ is now ‘The Prince of Wales Bridge’. Does it matter? And if so, why? And, crucially, what alternatives could have been utilized – and still could be utilized, if the opportunity to re-name the bridge were to somehow come around again?

Well, it matters because, as I have argued elsewhere, re-naming is an emotive issue. We feel a deep connection to all of the names, labels and appellations in our lives. It bothers us when people mispronounce, misspell or try to change our personal names. We find it particularly upsetting when place names are changed, especially if the original place names have historical, cultural and linguistic significance.

In addition, naming and re-naming can be critical in marketing terms, from evoking nostalgic connections, through to signalling that a film might be of the kind of thing we’d like to go and see. Naming and re-naming, then, is a matter of some importance, requiring careful thought and analysis; it is also an opportunity for creativity – something I would say has been missed here.

So, I am going to argue that there was possibly a literary alternative, which would have worked well, in both Welsh and English, and might also even have brought about some of the economic benefits mentioned by Ken Skates, but without the controversy of the now adopted new name ‘The Prince of Wales Bridge’. To do this, I will begin with a historical example of where just such a literary re-naming solution came to pass.

An eponym as a disease label

According to onomastician Ernest Lawrence Abel (2018), back in the 15th century, a “new and unheard-of disease” spread throughout Europe. Having initially held some rather non-descript names, such as “unknown pestilence”, and some decidedly terrifying names, such as “a scourge of God”, it acquired the name “new disease of the armies”, which apparently appealed to physicians as it gave the disease an identifiable source, based on recent events (P96-97).

However, there then developed a tendency, amongst enemy nations, to eponymously name the illness after each other, which of course enabled each nation to blame its enemies for originating or spreading it. For example: in France it was known as ‘Mal de Napoli’ (and various other names synonymous with blaming Naples); in Poland it was called the ‘German disease’; in Russia it was called the ‘Polish disease’; in North Africa, the Moors called it the ‘Spanish evil’; and so on and so forth (P97-98).

Over time, as Abel (2018) points out, this kind of jingoistic eponymic naming soon fell out of favour, as different names for the same disease in different countries created confusion, making diagnosis and treatment difficult. The disease therefore began being referred to by descriptive, symptom-related names: in the UK it was dubbed ‘great pox’; in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, colloquial names for the disease were variants of bubos ‘boils’ (P98-99).

Eventually, the present name was taken from a poem which had been written in 1530 by Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro, in the style of a Greek mythological epic:

“Syphilis is a shepherd whom the god Apollo punished for some transgression with ‘foul sores in his own body’, and ‘limbs racked with pain…And from him, the first to suffer it, the disease took its name and was called Syphilis’” (Wynne-Finch 1935, 33-334, in Abel 2018).

Thus, a nice, neutral name was coined, based on a fictional character – a name which didn’t carry with it any of the emotional baggage or blame that the other names did. However, the disease itself still carried a stigma and thus didn’t enter common use until around 1850 (Abel 2018, P100).

So, back to the rather tricky issue of naming a bridge over the River Severn – could a literary solution be found here also?

Two Queens and a Princess

Once upon a time, according to master-storyteller, Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his famous chronicle ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’, there lived a King named Locrinus. He was king of the portion of Britain called Loegria (England). Locrinus submitted to a political marriage to Gwendolen, daughter of Corineus, king of Cornwall, despite being in love with Estrildis, who was the daughter of a king in Germania. For a while, Locrinus was married to Gwendolen, whilst also keeping Estrildis as his lover. Gwendolen gave birth to a son named Maddan, and Estrildis had a daughter whom she named Habren.

When Corineus died, Locrinus left Gwendolen and made Estrildis his queen. Spurned, Gwendolen went to Cornwall and raised an army, with which she defeated Locrinus upon her return. With Locrinus out of the way, Gwendolen had Estrildis and her daughter Habren drowned in the river. Gwendolen decreed that the river should thereafter bear Habren’s name. And, as Geoffrey writes:

“Thus it happens that even today that river is named Habren in the Welsh tongue and has been corrupted in the other language to Severn.” (Monmouth, approx. 1136)

Alternative versions of the text note the names as: Locrinys, Gwennddolav, Korineys, Essyllt, Madoc, and Hafren (which index as in modern times as ‘Welsh’ rather than ‘English’).

Whilst Geoffrey claimed to have translated an ancient book in the British language, this claim has been widely discredited. The book is considered to be ‘pseudohistorical’, combining previous historical and literary works. It thus probably also combined previous folklore relating to the river, which included the names ‘Sabrinnā’ and ‘Sabrina’, which ‘Severn’ is thought to be a version of; some versions also include bearers of the name drowning in the river. In any case, however it came about, the stretch of water between South East Wales and South West England is known as the ‘River Severn’ in English, and ‘Afon Hafren’ in Welsh.

So, if we consider that in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s chronicles, ‘Severn’/ ‘Hafren’ gave her name to the river, and therefore by extension, the first bridge, perhaps the second bridge could be named after her mother ‘Estrildis’, and thus in Welsh be ‘Pont Essyllt’? It would surely be a less controversial choice and might also attract tourists – amongst them those already interested in Geoffrey’s famous work, due to some of its other famous characters, including a certain King Arthur.


Whilst the ‘Second Severn Crossing’ was clearly, in my view at least, in need of re-naming, the process followed, or lack thereof, has left many in Wales feeling at least a little disgruntled, if not outright angry, at the lack of public consultation and transparency. This whole episode in our history is more than just a name for a bridge or a commemorative plaque; it is a political act loaded with symbolism and implied meaning. It may very well transpire that the debates surrounding the bridge go on to have quite serious repercussions. However, one thing that would be nice to see come out of all of this, would be if we could have some clarity and finality on the matter of suitable legislation to protect toponyms in Wales, including houses, farms, fields, natural features and landscapes; we can but hope.


Abel, E. L. (2018). Syphilis: The history of an eponym. Names – A Journal of Onomastics, 66(2), 96–102.

Geoffrey of Monmouth. (2007). The History of the Kings of Britain. Broadview Press.