BBC complaint fob-off concerning Cornish language confused with dialect


29 Jun 2017 - MawKernewek

Complaint Summary: Radio 4 confuse Cornish dialect with the language

Full Complaint:
The webpage which is titled "Poldark parlance: 14 Cornish phrases and what they mean" claims to give a list of 14 words or phrases in Cornish. However except for one they are the English dialect spoken in Cornwall rather than the actual Cornish language. I would have thought Radio 4 would know better than to confuse the Anglo-Cornish dialect with the actual Cornish language, which is distinct from English.

This is the somewhat confused fob-off I got in response:

Thanks for getting in touch regarding BBC Online.
I understand you feel that the Radio 4 page 'Poldark parlance: 14 Cornish phrases and what they mean', confuses the Anglo-Cornish dialect with the Cornish language.
The article doesn't claim to be translating from the Cornish language Kernewek into English.
The introduction explains that the English and Cornish languages intermingled to create a dialect, or what words and phrases which are unique to that specific region.
So in this context, the article is clarifying the meaning of words and phrases used in the English dialect of Cornwall.
That said, we do value your feedback about this issue. All complaints are sent to senior management and online editors every morning and I included your points in this overnight report.
These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.

Once again, thank you for contacting us.

 Kind regards

BBC Complaints Team

Note however that the article has been edited. I have reproduced below the article as it was at the time I made my complaint. Note that the introductory paragraphs are not the same as the current version on the website.

Poldark parlance: 14 Cornish phrases and what they mean

The Cornish language was thought to have died out with its last fluent, native speakers back in the 18th Century, but Kernewek – or what we know of as Cornish – has been experiencing a recent revival.

With Poldark’s rugged residents due to grace our screens once again, what better opportunity to scrub up on some good, old-fashioned Cornish words and sayings.

1. Aright, my 'ansum?

No, not an enquiry from an admirer or a casual come-on, this is a simple “how are you?” 'Ansum is a universal term of endearment directed at men and women alike, and can be used for strangers as well as friends - handsome or not.

2. Dreckly

If someone proffers “I’ll do it dreckly”, don’t expect the task in hand to be completed any time soon. Dreckly is to the Cornish what mañana is to the Spanish – I’ll do it when I’m good and ready and not before. “See you dreckly” is the Cornish “ciao”, or “see you later”. That could mean later that day, tomorrow, or well into the future. You might be waiting around for some time…

3. Proper job

Delighted by that cream tea you just ate? “Proper job.” Enchanted with your new wheebarrow? “Proper job.” Thoroughly enjoyed the latest episode of Poldark? “Proper job.” It’s a mark of quality that can be applied to just about anything, not just worthwhile employment.

4. Stank

Nothing to do with a nasty smell (although you might whiff after you’ve done one), stank simply means a walk – normally a long and arduous one up a steep hill, what with it being Cornwall: “Arear! That was a fair old stank.”

Proper job.

5. Teddy

Not the popular furry playmate but a crucial ingredient in the much-loved Cornish pasty, teddy is Cornish vernacular for the common and garden spud. Order a teddy oggy for a potato pasty, or a turmut and teddy pie for a dish consisting of meat, potato and turnip under short crust pastry. Delicious.

6. Kiddlywink

An unlicensed beer shop, a kiddlywink was permitted to sell beer or cider but not spirits like traditional taverns and inns. So shopkeepers would keep contraband brandy in a kettle under the counter. The knowing clientele, often smugglers and other disreputable types, would then wink at the kettle when they needed a top up. Farm labourers could visit a kiddlywink to receive beer instead of their wages (which probably didn’t go down too well with the rest of the family).

7. Chacking

Meaning thirsty, as in “I’m chacking for a cider – if you need me I’ll be at the kiddlywink.”

8. Whist

Wan-looking, weak or faint. A characteristic displayed by many a miner, peasant, or urchin in Poldark – not to mention the viewers: after gazing at the broody, shirtless estate owner atop his horse, atop a cliff, many a young woman has been rendered well and truly whist.

9. Piddledowndidda?

Like the rest of the British, the Cornish relish a conversation about the weather. This literally translates as “was it raining?” or “get rained on did you?” On a visit to Cornwall, the answer is very likely to be yes.

10. Emmet

A derogatory nickname for tourists or outsiders. Literally meaning ant, it’s used by the Cornish locals to describe the summer influx of visitors – often red with sunburn and seen scurrying around the countryside.

Take a stank round here.

11. Teasy as’n adder

Derived from the Cornish word “tesek” meaning “hot-tempered”, teasy can be used to describe an irritable child, or a grumpy adult who deserves to be given a wide berth: “He’s imbibed too much scrumpy, he’s teasy as’n adder!”

12. Wasson me cock?

A common greeting. Don’t worry, they’re not asking you to inspect their nether regions for foreign objects – they just want to know what you’re up to.

13. Giss on!

Are you pulling my leg? Don’t talk rubbish!

14. Kows moy lent mar pleg

Finally, one to remember if you’re planning an imminent trip to the Celtic kingdom of Kernow - it might prove useful if you find yourself out of depth in a conversation with the locals. It simply means “please speak more slowly”.

Proper job, me lover! Now don’t be teasy, settle down dreckly to geek at Poldark with a belly-tember teddy oggy and a gooder sense of what the sumpmen and bal-maidens are all gabbling on about. Bleddy 'ansum that is.

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