Waling on Wales
If England harassed my Welsh ancestors as much as Brits make fun of me, I understand why my relatives left Great Britain. Unfortunately, my grandparents ended up in a town and state that all of America ridicules—Fargo, North Dakota—the letters of which can be rearranged to spell “a good, hot, rank fart.” This escape eventually led to my birth in the United States of America—which offers added insight into its inimitable culture by rearranging its letters: 1) “Fat, roasted, meat cuisine;” 2) “Fantastic idea? Sure, to me!” or 3) “An armistice? To us, defeat!”
Being half-Welsh was an unavoidable fate. My mother’s maiden name was also Jones, meaning “offspring of John,” which begs the question, “Like English, does the word John also mean “toilet” in the Welsh language?” Darlene Jones married Ken Jones, and my friends will never believe they weren’t blood-related, probably brother and sister.
As the age-old saying goes, created by the explorers who named it, “North Dakota isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from there.” I wish Mom had popped me across the river in the eccentric state of Minnesota, which produced Vice President Walter Mondale (name rearranged: “a real meltdown”) who lost miserably in his presidential bid because of bad hair, enormous ears, too many gums when he smiled, and dark bags under his eyes the size of sofa cushions. For their governor, Minnesota once chose former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura and changed their state slogan to “Our governor can beat up your governor.” During the aftershock of 9/11 and former President Bush’s War On Terrorists And Random People Who Aren’t Bright White, progressive Minnesota elected the first Muslim congressman in America, quite remarkable for a bunch of tall, blonde, Scandinavian Lutherans.
North Dakota has produced one semi-famous singer Peggy Lee (or Leggy Pee), one semi-famous baseball player Roger Maris (rearranged, Sir Ogre Arm), and several prize-winning cows—Bessie, Bossy, and Beulah, though these might be the names of their large Scandinavian owners. It’s hard to tell them apart, because, like their cows, the owners appear to have five stomachs. What’s the difference between a champion cow in North Dakota and her owner? Two choices: 1) about three kilos; or 2) lipstick.
In Thailand, though my British friends know I’ve permanently left the USA, they persist with their japing about my inglorious American heritage. Standing with four Brits, I plead in an attempt to salvage my reputation, “But I’m half-Welsh!” Like a well rehearsed, synchronized maneuver in a movie scene, each “friend” silently grimaces and takes a giant step away from me as if I’d passed a good, hot, rank one. Is Wales that bad, worse than America?
For years I only knew two things about Wales: 1) it’s the birthplace of Tom Jones, the gold-chained, famous-to-aging-housewives, big-voiced crooner; and 2) it promotes the city with the longest name in the world which, unlike my home town, must be difficult to chant at sporting events: “Go get ’em lanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch! (Fargo is much simpler: “Go, Fargo, far, go far, go far, go!”) With so many consonants and even four “l’s” in a row, the Welsh language must’ve mutated in pubs after several hundred pints of beer and stuporous sessions of slurred singing.
The web told me that the negative British opinion of Wales began in 1847 with the English-speaking commissioner’s official report on their educational system, then largely conducted in Welsh. It concluded that “the natives were dirty, ignorant, lazy, drunk, superstitious, lying, and cheating because they were nonconformists and spoke Welsh,” which was similar to England’s view of the rest the world, except for the “spoke Welsh” part.
I also learned these grim facts: a) “Jones” means “an addiction to a drug, principally heroin,” and b) “Welsh” means “to cheat or swindle by failing to pay a debt,” perhaps resulting in c) “wales” which are “large welts raised on the skin by the lash of a whip.” And in 1841, 14% of the population in Wales was named Jones, which may verify the incestuous insinuations about my ancestors who possibly evolved from sis and bro into mumsy and pops.
I finally visited Wales, but only remember castles, more castles, and food that tasted like ground-up castles, possibly the worst meals I’d ever experienced, even more distasteful than native English cuisine. In London, dining was an anticipated event with savory selections from around the world, although I avoided local entrées.
Zealous British Waitress: “I’ll bet you’d love the chef’s special spotted dick!”
Suspicious American Me: “No, thanks. I went to see a doctor about one last week.”
Subdued Waitress: “Well then, have you ever tried haggis with bashit neeps?”
Me: “No, but I think stepped in some once.”
Flagging Waitress: “Hmm. Our choice faggots are truly out of sight.”
Me: “Let’s keep ’em that way. Please bring me a dish from any other country in the world.”
While planning meals in Wales, I’d ask myself, “Should I try to find something with actual flavor today, or just go with another bowl of fun-size Snickers?” The ale, however, was addicting, and I consumed significant quantities while trying to forget I’d have to eat again. I remember nothing about the capitol city of Cardiff except it was called Cardiff, which is probably the Welsh word for castle.
The conclusion and/or response to my British mates? Who cares! Make fun of me. I do!
Final facts: The city name Llanfairpwellgwyngyllgog… etcetera… means “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave,” but the world’s longest city name is in Thailand:
tarayutthayamahadilokphopnopparatrajathaniburiromudomrajaniwesmahasatharnamornphimarnavatarnsathitsakkattiyavisanukamprasit, meaning “Bangkok… whatever.”
Fargo doesn’t really mean anything, except its namesake, William G. Fargo, a financial backer of the railroad and partner in the Wells-Fargo Express Company. In some circles the acronym FARGO means “Fast Advection in Rotating Gaseous Objects” [“advection” means “the horizontal flow of air, water, etc.”] which seems to tie back into the previously mentioned letter rearrangement of “a good, hot, rank fart.” Fargo is located right across the river from Moorhead, and everyone knows what that means.