Penvoze and Trezona: a study in contrasts

Two enquiries recently received offer the opportunity to show the contrasting history of Cornish surnames. Although one of these surnames flourished and the other did not, they are similar in that both originated in a Cornish placename. Penvoze, spelt Penfos before the early 1500s, existed in five separate locations from the Roseland peninsula as far … Continue reading Penvoze and Trezona: a study in contrasts

Cornish and English in 16th century Cornwall

The surname Cornish was well established by the 1500s. Its presence outside Cornwall would be unsurprising, However, what requires more explanation is the considerable number of people in Cornwall itself with this name. Their presence in the 1500s implies its original meaning was not ‘someone from Cornwall’ as in Cornwall this would not be a … Continue reading Cornish and English in 16th century Cornwall

Forenames and identity

St Peran didn't just leave his name in the landscape. On occasion, the name Piran or Perran is bestowed on male babies. However, this isn't some age-old tradition, surviving from the days of the saints. On the other hand, it's not entirely novel either. The forename Perran was being used in Perranzabuloe in the 1600s … Continue reading Forenames and identity

Patronyms and the Cornish language

Does the presence of patronymic surnames (surnames derived from first names) tell us anything about the last days of the traditional Cornish language? I have argued elsewhere that the distribution of the most common surnames in nineteenth century Cornwall – Williams, Thomas and Richards – offers a good indication of the geography of the language … Continue reading Patronyms and the Cornish language

Where’s Arthur when we need him?

Nance Let's continue the Arthurian theme from the last blog, which included a map of the early distribution of the surname Arthur. The warrior-king Arthur, who left his imprint in the landscape from Brittany to Scotland, was given a restored role by the Cornish revivalists of the early 1900s. It seems an appropriate time of … Continue reading Where’s Arthur when we need him?

Why don’t the English speak Cornish?

Or at least a version of Brittonic Celtic, the language that was spoken, along with Latin, when the Romans left Britain in the early 400s. Within a relatively short time the whole of what became England, or at least its southern part, was speaking English. We know this because the number of Celtic placenames in … Continue reading Why don’t the English speak Cornish?

Has the Standard Written Form of Cornish failed?

For a lot of us the debate over the proper base for the revived Cornish language is about as relevant as medieval theologians arguing over the number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin. Nonetheless, the Cornish language, revived or not, is of considerable symbolic importance for Cornwall and its identity … Continue reading Has the Standard Written Form of Cornish failed?

Reflections on dreckly

We'll get around to dreckly dreckly. But first, a week or two ago the online dating site eharmony was reported as having completed a survey of accents to see which were the most ‘attractive’. The ‘Cornish accent’ came in 20th out of 20! Obviously, such ‘research’ probably tells us more about the stereotypes of the … Continue reading Reflections on dreckly