Welsh writers can't find words for sex

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The Independent Online
Welsh writers are having a difficult time with sex.

The language is still suffering the effects of a non-conformist chapel culture which stifled the use and evolution of words that Welsh writers now need.

Yesterday at the annual conference of the Welsh Union of Writers, novelists and poets revealed their problems in finding the right words.

"We have few contemporary words for the act and the parts involved, and if you should find yourself listening one night to a farmer's daughter from west Wales talking dirty to you in the senior tongue, it's striking how similar it is to reading a catalogue of 17th century agricultural instruments," says Jon Gower, producer of the WUW newsletter and delegate to the "Sex - The Great Welsh Not" conference.

"The word for a woman's nether regions for instance is `ffwrch' which means furrow as in field and a word for penis is `coes bach', or little leg," he says.

Such words and phrases, it is argued, are difficult to build into romantic or erotic literature without losing some of the atmosphere. "In Welsh novels such as the otherwise excellent Tri Diwrnod ac Angladd (Three Days and Wedding), there is a passage which might in English excite the libido. Sadly, an undressing sequence in which someone `undoes a breast tier', which is how `datod bronglwm' translates, is a deflating read," says Mr Gower.

Nigel Jenkins, chairman of the WUW, says that it was the Victorians who set the trend, and that some writers have had to go back centuries to try and rediscover more appropriate words.

Even when the words do come, there is still a resistance to sex in literature, says Mr Gower: "Writing about sex in Wales is to invoke a lowering of that stern deaconic eyebrow. We have only seen two novels in recent years which have tried to be erotic and they have caused uproar. You would not expect the same kind of reaction in English where any number of people take their clothes off and go to bed."