Posted on 22 June 2017
On Saturday 17th of June, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (The University of Wales Dictionary of the Welsh Language) officially launched its Society of Friends at Y Drwm, The National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth, and it was pleasing to see so many turn out to support this milestone in the Dictionary’s history.
Here Mary Williams, Assistant Editor of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, reflects on Saturday’s launch:
“The launch began with an address by Arwel Ellis Owen (Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies), who discussed our word of the day for Saturday, ‘noddwr’ (patron) – very apt in the circumstances! There followed a brief description of the Dictionary’s current situation and plans for the future by Andrew Hawke (Managing Editor), who also stated the reasons for establishing the Friends, explaining that the society’s main aim is to attract comrades to become ambassadors for the Dictionary – friends who will help us to raise awareness of the Dictionary and encourage new users.
The society’s president, the chaired poet Myrddin ap Dafydd spoke next, sharing memories of his parent’s bookshop in Llanrwst, and of the customers who waited eagerly for new fascicles of the Dictionary to appear. People of various occupations – fishermen, farmers, shopkeepers, carpenters, teachers, and ministers amongst others, looked forward to spending hours browsing through the treasures between the covers. They found the Dictionary entertaining, as Myrddin ap Dafydd does today, confessing that he often becomes absorbed in the contents of the volumes he keeps both at home and in the office, being led from one article to another by the charm of words and the breadth of information about their usage, history, and development. Myrddin then took us on a lexical tour of brewing, and thanked the Dictionary ‘for barrelling the past in order to slake the thirst of the present and for offering sackfuls of malting barley to be used in the future’.
Next, Professor Dafydd Johnston gave a talk on the word ‘bach’ (small), a common but nevertheless very interesting word. Dafydd ap Gwilym appears to have been fond of using it, and the earliest examples of the word recorded in the Dictionary are from his work. It appears that the word ‘bychan’ was used earlier and more formally, giving an example of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s tendency to use less formal words in his poetry.
Dr Angharad Fychan, one of our Senior Editors, gave an insight into the day to day work of the Dictionary and illustrated how the work has changed over the last twenty years. Technological developments leading to the availability of searchable digital resources have transformed the way we work, but the collection of 2.5 million slips gathered over a century are still as important as ever. She also mentioned our attempts to strengthen our contact with the public via Word of the Day on Facebook, Clecs, and Twitter – a link that works both ways as we often get feedback. Finally she spoke of the threat of losing our dialect words due to language uniformity, and urged our Friends and the public to be proud of, and use their dialect words, and to inform the Dictionary of them so they may be recorded for posterity.
It was good to welcome a former colleague, Tegwyn Jones, to conclude the event. He entertained the audience by discussing the place names of his place of birth, Pen-bont Rhydybeddau and the surrounding area. Not only did he supply facts, but also interesting and entertaining anecdotes regarding the places in question, and the people who lived there – stories that greatly enhanced and gave life to the facts.
Following the talks there was an opportunity to visit the Dictionary’s offices and to socialize over a cup of tea. It was immensely gratifying to see so many interested in our work – making new friends warms the heart! A warm welcome awaits anyone who wishes to join the Friends – we feel privileged to have helpers to promote and support the Dictionary!”
For more information about the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru and the ‘Friends of the Dictionary’, including information on how to join, please visit the Dictionary’s website: www.welsh-dictionary.ac.uk/friends-of-the-dictionary/, email cyfeilliongeiriadur.ac.uk, or telephone 01970 639094.