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News Entry# 286960
  
Nov 28 2016 (06:57)  What’s in a name? (www.thehindu.com)
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Commentary/Human Interest

News Entry# 286960     
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Posted by: rdb*^  129373 news posts
After visiting a small village in North Wales famous for its railway station with the longest single name, SOMA BASU dares readers to say it loud!
Less than 4,000 people live in this tiny village on the island of Anglesey in Wales. Locals describe it as a big village with a quaint railway station, because it is the name of the station that makes the place world-famous.
Out of curiosity, when I ask Michael John Wilson, who chauffeured me around the Welsh countryside, to take me there, he lays down a condition. “First
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pronounce the name correctly. Try saying it, first slow and then fast,” he challenges me. Mind you, he does not utter the word himself, but writes it down in my notebook. I watch him write that single word: it takes up five lines.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyll
gogerychwyrndrobwllll
antysiliogogogoch
One word with 58 letters, and the most unpronounceable one. I fail the test, but Mike is kind to the visitor from India. As we cross the Britannia Bridge from Bangor (a small university town 30 minutes away) and go past heritage houses, lush green parks and the autumn spectacle of fallen leaves, two things strike me. The village — dating back to the Neolithic period — is still signposted Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. It was the original name that was converted into this long form in 1860, around the time the station was built. A lot more syllables were added, purportedly to promote the place and attract visitors.
Michael shares stories about how people joke that the person who coined it must have fallen asleep at the typewriter. But interestingly, the name not only has a meaning, but is also recorded as the longest town name in Europe and the second-longest one-word place name in the world.
The narrow, deserted road suddenly gives way to small shops and workshops on either side. This is the newer part which is built around the railway station and is the hub of commerce. The original medieval township was decentralised and split into the Upper Village, consisting of mostly older houses and farms, and the Lower Village, which blended into modernity with shops, small hotels and restaurants.
Each building, no matter how big or small, has a very long signboard to accommodate the new name of the village — it makes everything else seem Lilliputian. Some boards also provide the meaning.
The railway station is unmissable. The full name is displayed on every side of the red-brick heritage structure. The façade retains its old-world charm, while the interior offices and the platform have been given a facelift in recent times. Not a soul is to be seen. Only an electronic board announces the arrival time of the next train.
Michael tells me that tourists come here on touch-and-go visits to pose with the signboards. Some attempt to spell the word or learn the meaning from the locals. In Welsh, the word has only 51 characters, because “ch” and “ll” are considered single letters. The word apparently describes the location of the town: “By the Church of St. Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio by the red cave”.
There is not much else to do here besides gawk at the railway station and gather fun facts about the place. I was lucky enough to see a train chug in. Shakespeare may have asked, “What’s in a name?” But this town’s glory rests in its name.
People joke that the person who coined the name must have fallen asleep at the typewriter
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