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This article is taken from PN Review 162, Volume 31 Number 4, March - April 2005.

Ceredigion Autumn Matthew Francis

Welsh place-names tend to come in pairs. Sometimes a place has two completely different names, like Cardigan (English) and Aberteifi (Welsh), more often they are variations on the same word or phrase: Bridgend is simply a translation of Penybont; the Welsh name for Cardiff, Caerdydd, clarifies its presumed etymology, the fortress of Didius. Sometimes the difference is only a letter or two, as in Llansantffraid or Llansantffraed, the church of St Bridget, the name of the Ceredigion village where I am staying in a rented cottage until I can find somewhere more permanent to live. I am not sure which of these spellings is the Welsh one and which the English or why the English should bother with their own spelling of a name that looks so Welsh either way. Llansantffraed (I have decided on this spelling on aesthetic grounds) is a few fields away from a larger village, Llanon or Llan-non, whose name means the church of St Non. Non is the local saint, the mother of St David, though she is also claimed by another Llannon in Carmarthenshire, as well as by locations in Ireland and Brittany. There is an alternative theory that she was invented only to explain the name, and that Llanon is really Llan-onn, the church by the ash tree.

The Welsh language is all around me. In the morning waiting for the bus opposite a chapel like a child's drawing of a house on a Biblical scale, I hear my ...


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