For the first time, visitors can find their way to a beach in Welsh thanks to new bilingual road signs at a seaside in North Wales.The signs were installed in Benllech by Anglesey Council as part of attempts to reclaim Anglicised street names and celebrate what might have been their Welsh origins. The new signs quickly ignited a debate over the use of a Welsh word to denote “road”, with some bemused residents in Beach Road fancying their addresses had been upgraded slightly.
“I’m confused,” said one resident, who took to Facebook to air his puzzlement. “I thought I lived on a road but now it’s a lane.” The new bilingual sign for Beach Road now includes its Welsh equivalent “Lôn y Traeth”. For non Welsh-speakers who searched online translations, they thought they were now living on Benllech Lane.
Matters were quickly settled by Welsh locals who explained the word “Lôn” on Anglesey generally means any type of road. “Ask around,” said one person. “For example, the main road is ‘Y Lôn Bost’ (The Post Road).”
Even though technically lôn means “lane” and ffordd means “road”, the two words are considered interchangeable in much of Anglesey and Gwynedd. According to one Welsh speaker, “ffordd” is more formal and tends to be used more often than “lôn” in south and east Wales to denote a road.For most, ffordd typically means “way”, though its usage varies. “I was brought up in Denbighshire and I used to say ffordd for road!” said one woman now living on Anglesey.Everyone contributing to the debate agreed that Welsh place names need to be used alongside English names on road signs – or preferably to take their place.
While some people believe bilingual signs help visitors understand the meaning of Welsh words, others insist Welsh versions are usually more descriptive as well as being “aesthetically pleasing”.
Efforts to prevent the erosion of Welsh place names were stepped up last month with the expansion of a project set up to protect the names of houses. The Diogelwn (We Will Protect) scheme, launched in 2021, enables anyone to download a legal document they can use to safeguard the name of their home in perpetuity, even if it is sold on.
At the 2022 National Eisteddfod, Welsh language group Cymdeithas yr Iaith announced the scheme now also allows people to protect the names of fields and plots of land. It follows this year’s disappearance from the Ordnance Survey map of the name “Banc y Cornicyll”, to be replaced with “Hakuna Matata”.Meaning “no worries” in Swahili, the phrase was popularised in the film The Lion King. The original Welsh name referred to a ridge for lapwings or plover birds.More outrage followed this year's renaming of a caravan park near Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. Glan y Môr, which had been used for a century, was changed to Aber Bay in an effort to boost the park's reputation.“About time these historic Welsh names were re-adopted,” said a woman commenting on the new Benllech signs.