PICK up your newspaper, turn on your television, or switch on your radio, and you will inevitably hear someone – often somebody from within Wales – talk about “North Wales” or “South Wales”. 

When that happens do you immediately think that they must be referring to the North Wales Police or the South Wales Police, or has something a bit vaguer, and hard to pin down or locate, entered your mind?

The promotion of nondescript names such as North Wales, West Wales or, even more obliquely, South-West Wales, act as a blanket to cover the actual places under that terminology.

Imaginary lines on the land appear to have been drawn. So, where does this perplexing entity known as North Wales start? Machynlleth, possibly, or Carno? If so, then Tal-y-bont and Caersws must be in South Wales. Similarly, is Ammanford in South Wales or West Wales? Does it matter? Yes, enormously.

There is no actual place as North Wales, as, similarly, there is not a West, South or East Wales. Whilst Anglicisation, and this nomenclature of convenience, has been evident since the colonial heydays of the 13th and 14th centuries, the capitalisation, and consolidation, of areas is an imperialist phenomenon. 

Indeed, it emerged at the apogee of the Industrial Revolution at a time when non-indigenous people – specifically capitalists, landowners, and speculators – could not pronounce Welsh names, and therefore referred to the broad, characterless ‘North’, ‘South’, etc. 
Why attempt to say Eglwys Fach or Glanwydden, when you can just say “a village in North Wales”; the attitude and narrative being one of ‘who knows precisely where it is, but, in reality, who actually cares?’


Even our capital city falls prey to these inessential misnomers. The description “Cardiff, South Wales” occasionally arises. Strange, then, how we never see the denomination “London, South England” or “Dublin, East Ireland”.

Many people will think that identifying the area is useful, not least for those uninitiated with our territory. But it is an act of denying and othering. We cast aside the traditional name, and we other it, as it is deemed to be unpronounceable, irrelevant, too small, too isolated (pay your penny and take your choice). 

It is a process of decoupling us from what we know. The alternative is the promotion of community, and our association with it, and with each other. Mr Gwilym Jenkins is a resident of Brecon. Dr Sioned Owen is a citizen of Tregaron. 
Real people in real places.

We can, unquestionably, use north, south, east, and west to point at, and explain, the sections of our land. But these should always be small case descriptors.

As we have (hopefully?) advanced as a nation and people, it is probably best to leave behind capitalisation – this relic from our Victoriana lexicon – and start to celebrate our beautiful, descriptive place names in all their written, aural, and visual glories.

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