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March 28, 2014

 In a recent news story, a man has been charged with racial abuse after shouting at a pair of Welsh bouncers who ejected him from a club, calling them Taffs. I must admit my first thought was that this is plain silly. Taff just doesn’t seem to me a particularly offensive epithet for a Welsh person; and I speak as someone who is half-Welsh himself. It derives from the River Taff, which rises in the Brecon Beacons and flows through Cardiff, and I’d always thought it a reasonably benign, even affectionate term for a Welsh person. There is a song, “Pubcrawl”, by the Irish singer Brendan Shine, which contains the lines: “I was drinking with a Taff/ We was drinking pints of cider/ I said ‘Where are you from?”/ He said ‘I’m from the Ronddha’ / I helped him on his bike/ Oh, you should have seen him wander” – and that’s the sort of word I thought it was, a not unfriendly, rather old-fashioned term that belongs in a comic song rather than a trial about racial abuse. It’s not loaded with the terrible historical associations of terms like yid or nigger.

Or is it? I don’t know. After all, the English did conquer and colonise the Welsh. Maybe that explains why, centuries later, the word Taff, used by an English person of a Welsh person, still has a sting in it. Or were those bouncers just trying it on? Any thoughts on this one welcome.

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One Comment
  1. Sarah Eden permalink

    Many years ago my mum told me that there is a saying or rhyme “Taffy was a Welshman/Taffy was a thief” which may indicate why the Welsh object so much to this name. Don’t know where the rhyme comes from though.

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