Mollethi yn Kernewek (gans Matthi Clarke, yn KK)

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How to swear in Cornish:

Fuck off = Kyj dhe-ves (Pron: kidge the VEAZ)
arse-hole = toll-din (Pron: toll DEEN)
kiss my butt = amm dhe’m gwenn (pron: amm them GWENN)
the cat’s fart = bramm an gath (pron: bramm an GATH)
your mother’s vagina = kons dha vamm (pron: konz the VAMM)
you idiot = ty wokki (pron: te WOCK-y)
suck my dick = sug ow halgh (pron: seeg o HALH)
baldy = penn-blogh (pron: pen-BLOH)
by the fucking Devil = a-barth an Jowl a gyj (pron: a-BARTH an JOLE a GIDGE)
dick head = penn-kalgh (pron: pen KALH)
go an penetrate yourself = re’th omlansyewgh hwi (pron: reth om-LANS-yowh hwee)
go fuck yourself = re’th kyjyewgh hwi (pron: reth KIDGE-yowh hwee)
I’m fucked = dogluthys ov (pron: dog-LEETHE-yz ov)
Do you want to fuck me? = A vynn’ta ow dogluthi? (pron: a VIN-ta o dog-LEETHE-y)
I love wanking = Da yw genev omwari (pron: daa ee-w genev [hard g] om-WAR-y)

Basic words:

Penis = kalgh (pron: kalh)
bumhole = gwenn (pron: gwenn)
bottom = tin (pron: teen)
cunt = kons (pron: konz)
tits = diwvronn (pron: DEEW-vron)
fart = bramm (pron: bramm)
fuck = kyj (pron: kidge)
to fuck = kyjya (pron: KIDGE-ya)
to anally penetrate = lansya (pron: LAUNCE-ya)
wanker = omgyjyer (pron: om-GIDGE-yer)
wanker = omwarier (pron: om-war-EE-er)


as dry as a nun’s fanny = mar sygh avel kons lenes (pron: mar ZIH vel konz LENez)
as rough as a badger's arse = mar arow avel tin brogh (pron: mar ARow vel teen BROH)

Next is a document anonymously distributed in the early 1990s in London...


"Kernewek Kemmyn", the language we speak today is based on Middle Cornish, as spoken in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and has the richest literature. In the early part of this period, Kernow was still within the orbit of the Catholic church based in Rome. Many of the oaths that appear in the Miracle plays of the time have a religious connotation. Thus:-

Re’n oferenn = by the mass
Re’m fydh = by my faith
A-barth Dyw = in God’s name
Re Varia = by Mary
Re Dhyw am ros = by God that made me

One could also swear by the saint of one’s parish Thus :-
Re Golom = by St Colom
Re Vyghal = by St Michael
Re Just = by St. Just
Re Ia = by St Ia (Ives)

The object of swearing is often to release pent up tensions and feelings of frustration. This could be achieved by offering disrespect to objects, people or beliefs normally held in high repute. One would thus shock oneself and listeners. Like all Celtic peoples, relationships within families were close and deep, impenetrable to outsiders. Thus:-

Ren ow thas = by my father
This was a shock expression, and may be counted as a swear word. Cornish people also swore by the Devil and his lieutenants:-

Re gorf Mahom = by the body of Mahom
Re Satnas = by Satan
Re Appolyn = by Apollo
A-barth an pla = in the Devil's name
Re Vahom hweg, penn an syns = by sweet Mahound, chief of the saints
An Jowl = the Devil
A-barth Malan = in Malan's name
A-barth Satnas = in Satan's name
Re Jovyn = by Jove

In verbal contests, perhaps proceding physical ones, one would attempt to hurt one's opponent, belittle them, and damage their self esteem. Here there would be scope for a wide range of epithets:-

Tebelvenyn = evil woman
Hora = whore
Flerys = stinking person
Skajynn = vagabond
Mab-mollothow = cursed by his parents
Tevelwas = scoundrel
Koeg = worthless person
Penn kreghi = scabby head
Penn Jowl = Devil's head
Fals horsenn = false son of a whore
Gorgasenn = guzzler
Penn pyst = fool
Penn medhow = drunkard
Jowles = she Devil
Plosek = dirty person
Bylen = evil beast
Drog pollat = knave
Aflythys = ruffian
Drogoberor = wrongdoer
Meregyon = sniveller, sloven
Penn bras = fat head
Penn mousek = stinking head
Atla = rascal
Drog ebel = stubborn person
Lorden = clown

And certain expressions were used as well :-

Molleth Dyw warnas = God’s curse on you
Kans mil molleth warnas = a hundred thousand curses on you
Myshyf re’gas dokko = misfortune carry you off
Byner re dheppro boes = may he never eat food
A teffes dhymm nebes nes, my a bylsa dha benn blogh = if you came a little nearer to me, I would skin your bald pate
Ken dhe oela hwi a’s bydh = cause to weep you shall have
Ny synsav anodho favenn goeg = I don’t care an empty bean
Anodho my ny rov oy = I don't g’ive an egg for it
Molleth Dyw y’n gegin = the curse of God in your kitchen
An Jowl yn agas kegin = the Devil in your kitchen
Molleth Dyw dhe vab dha vamm = God’s curse on your mother’s son

Ren jeffo mewl! = bad luck to him!
Ke dhe-ves! = get out!
Gas dha flows! = don’t talk rot!
Gas dha son! = stop nagging!
Syns dha glapp = shut up!

In this context undoubtably words referring to sexual organs, sexual and excretory activity are also used. Words such as:-

Pysa = to piss
Kawgh = excrement
Kawgha = to excrete
Skoembla = to excrete (of animals)
Gwenn = anus
Bramm = fart
Bramma = to fart
Kons = vagina
Kalgh = penis
Diwgell = testicles
Kyjya = to copulate


Bramm an gath = fiddle sticks or literally cat’s fart
Kawghwas = obscene person
Kons dha vamm = your mother’s vagina

“meeagifjeewee” and “rethkidgywee” spelt as they were heard early this (last) century - these are clearly derogatory expressions incorporating the word ‘kyjya’.

The Cornish historian Richard Carew mentions in his book “Survey of Cornwall” (1600) says “...as to a stranger they will not speak it (English). Your likely answer will be:

My ny vynnav kows Sowsnek. Res yw dhywgh kews Kernewek dhymm.” = I will not speak English. You will have to speak Cornish to me.

If you propose to use this last expression, just in case you are met with a flood of Cornish in reply, you are advised to learn your mother tongue


I suppose in really colloquial speech it can also be heard thus:-

Bramm an fukkyn gath = the cat’s fucking fart
Kons dha fukkyn vamm = your fucking mother’s vagina
A-barth an fukkyn Jowl = by the fucking Devil


Here’s a new one on me...

‘Cakkamanna’ used to be heard in dialect. This translates as 'monk-shit’. This would be represented in Kernewek Kemmyn as:

Kawgh an managh
However it does sound better in the dialect version ‘Kakk a mana’

Found in Bywnans Ke: Kawgh an Jowl y’th vin = The Devil’s shit in your mouth.

Dogluthy/Dogluthi: New word found in Bywnans Ke.

In the January An Gannas, Ken George suggests, ‘We can add the word ludh to the Vocabulary to mean tired out.’ I am doubtful about this. The syllable luth is found three times in Bewnans Ke as part of the verb dogluthy and the noun luthky.The first example of dogluthy is in stanza 145. ‘Alas that I am dogluthy[s?]’ (It is written like this in the Oliver Padell transcript) It is spoken by Tewdar who is very angry with Ke but there is no reason to think he is tired as well. Michael Polkinhorn who has translated the whole play on the internet (except for the many gaps) has suggested foutu as a translation of dogluthys but perhaps we should be a little bolder as is Nicholas Williams in his dictionary where there is a long column on the four letter English word beginning with f***.

If Michael’s suggestion is correct (and I think it is) dogluthys could be an obscene word meaning, in this case a mixture of tiredness and anger (I’m f****!d)The second example of dogluthy is found in stanza 382 te a yl ov dogluthy. As Ken writes, Queen Gwinevere says this to Modred when he wants make love to her. At first she is unwilling but after a short time she takes pity on him and in words which are very clear although inappropriate in our more courteous times she offers to do it. ‘You may f***k me!’ She also says they should go to her bedroom to find a private place. Surely she does not mean ‘Thou mayest tire me out’ as Ken suggests! (There are examples of obscene language in The Miller’s Tale in Chaucer, the works of Rabelais in French and Bocaccio in Italian, not forgetting the famous lines in ‘The Death of Pilate’ 2355-2357 ‘Yes, you must kiss my arse hole // for its head is very long // indeed out of my arse’) The example of the noun mentioned by Ken is luthky found in stanza 344. ‘I, Hirtasy, King of Parthia will also oppose Arthur the false luthky’.

The precise meaning of the word in context is not clear, but it is clear that King Hirtasy wants to support the Emperor of Rome against King Arthur who will not be a loyal vassal or pay tribute according to the feudal custom. It is difficult to believe he is saying that Arthur is tired as Ken suggests. It is an inappropriate word, obscene perhaps, spoken by Hirtasy against Arthur showing that he is terribly evil.

I will not try to translate it to English! Michael Polkinhorn suggested it should be brathky (cur), but Ken is right to point out the connection with dogluthy which is more likely, perhaps,I suggested to Michael that doghluth is derived from the two English words dog and lust. It would be reasonable, perhaps, to add it to our vocabulary were not N. J, Williams already suggesting two other words to translate the English four letter word mentioned above and I am sure we don’t need any more!

Ray Edwards

In the 1990s, a Yeth an Werin was held every Monday evening at Tavern an Dre in Truro. Here are some of the disgusting phrases and words that have found their way into conversation there:

* Tin dhe vin - Arse to mouth
* splyt-rost - spitroast
* Penn dhe wenn - Head to anus
* an garma-sug-dra - The karma-sutra
* Simleth/Simlin - Monkey milk / cum