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The Cornish Language

The Cornish language is officially recognised as a minority language in the UK, and supported by the council – but until 2010 UNESCO classified it as being “extinct”. That is, of course, not the case – and its status has now been revised to “critically endangered”. It is one of the Brittonic Celtic family of languages, with connections to the Breton, Welsh and Cumbric languages, but distinct from other Celtic tongues like Scots and Irish Gaelic.

The difficulty in deciding whether or not the Cornish language was ever actually “extinct” is in how that’s defined. It has been a long time since there was a native speaker who knew only Cornish, but even when English became the common tongue, words and phrases of the Cornish language remained in common usage.

This can cause some confusion when tourists hear phrases they’re not accustomed to, so here’s a guide to some phrases, both from the Cornish language and from the local dialect of English, that you may hear when you join us for self catering holidays in Cornwall:

Kernow – Cornwall

Emmets – Tourists

Teasy – Irritable or grumpy

Upcountry – Anywhere in the UK other than Cornwall

Incomers – Upcountry folk now living in Cornwall

Gess on – Yeah, right!

Hell up  – A right fuss, as in “There was hell up in town last night”, obviosuly a rare occurrence in peaceful Perranporth!

Kernow a’gas dynergh – Welcome to Cornwall, seen on some road signs as you enter the county.

Dydh da! – Hello!

Myttin da! – Good morning!

Dohajydh da! – Good afternoon!

Gorthuher da! – Good evening!

Fatla genes? – How are you?

Pur dha, meur ras – Very well, thanks.

Duw genes! – Goodbye! (to one person)

Duw genowgh hwi! – Goodbye! (to more than one person)

Nos da! – Good night!

Mar pleg – Please

Meur ras – Thank you

Gav dhymm – Excuse me

And finally, two very useful phrases for this time of year:

Nadelik Lowen! – Merry Christmas!

Bledhen Nowyth Da! – Happy New Year!

If you’d like to book a holiday with us, why not get in touch on 01872 572971 today?

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