Emmet’s Visit to Kernow
We only live 120 miles from Cornwall, so we occasionally visit Cornwall for a holiday. In some ways it’s a little like visiting a foreign country; they have their own language, culture, food, flag, and using the Cornish roads is an experience.
A growing number of Cornish people don’t consider Cornwall to be part of England, and prefer it to be known by its Celtic name of Kernow; and those same Cornish people view English tourists as foreigners, hence the term Emmet.
Kernow: This is Not England
What is Emmet and Where is Kernow?
Emmet is an ‘Old English’ word for Ant. These days it’s used as a derogatory word by Cornish people to describe English tourists visiting Cornwall, England.
Kernow is the Celtic word for Cornwall.
What is Old English?
Old English is a Germanic language spoken by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes tribes who settled in England from the mid-5th century to the mid-11th century; England being a derivative from the word Angles.
Middle English is a blend of Old English and the Norman language (Old French) which was spoken in England from after 1066 until about 1500; after which the language evolved into early Modern English.
What is Celtic?
The Celts are the tribes of people who occupied most of Europe prior to the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago. When the Romans invaded England in 43 AD the British Celts were pushed to the far corners of Britain, including Cornwall. The Romans, who occupied England from 43 AD until their withdrawal in 410 AD, called it Britannia (Latin word for Britain).
Today, the only six surviving Celtic nations are:
- Five in the UK; Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales and Cornwall, and
- Brittany in France.
Useful Source Information
The 5 Celtic Nations in the UK
Four of the five Celtic nations in the UK are well established and have their own Celtic languages. In the Republic of Ireland (a separate country, not part of the UK) and in Wales, Celtic is the official primary language. In Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) English is still the primary language, although a small number of people speak either Irish or Ulster Scots (two variants of the Celtic languages).
Cornwall is a little different in that although it has never been fully conquered and occupied by invading forces e.g. Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, or the Normans in 1066, the English Government (in London) since the middle ages have always assumed authority over it.
In contrast, while England has never acknowledged Cornwall’s separate status, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are recognised as separate countries, albeit bound to England as part of the United Kingdom; Scotland and Northern Ireland by treaties of 1707 and 1800 respectively. In spite of this, in recent decades Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have all acquired various degrees of semi-independence from England, with Scotland now pushing for complete Independence.
It’s in this context that in recent decades Cornwall has been pressing for official recognition as a Celtic State, and in 2014 it was granted ‘National Minority Status’ by the British Government under European Law; thus, giving them the same status ‘for the protection of ‘national minorities’ as the other four Celtic nations in the UK.
Cornwall Granted National Minority Status by British Government (Under EU Law) in 2014
Flavouring Cornwall’s Culture
Although we might be Emmets in the eyes of some Cornish people, we do love holidaying in Cornwall, and each time we visit I’m always fascinated on the subtle difference between Cornwall and the rest of England, which includes:-
- Cornish roads
The Cornish language is a Celtic Language dating back thousands of years that almost became extinct the late 18th century; but which has had a revival over the past 20 years.
In the 2011 census there were 557 people who can speak Cornish fluently, and around 5,000 people who have a basic understanding of the language. This might not sound a huge number, but in context of the Cornish population being only 536,000 people, 5,000 is 1% of that population, and with it now being taught in some schools and promoted within the community the use of the language is likely to slowly rise.
Therefore (unlike Wales), when we’re on holiday in Cornwall, apart from the occasional road sign, such as the border sign when crossing the River Tamar from England into Cornwall, which reads “Kernow, a’gas dynergh”, meaning “Welcome to Cornwall”, you don’t generally see or hear the Cornish language.
In contrast, when we visit Wales, all road signs are in Welsh (with English underneath) and all public announcements e.g. at train stations, are first spoken in Welsh, then in English.
The Five Hundred: A Story of the Cornish Language
To a casual visitor Cornwall doesn’t appear so different to England, and its culture did go into decline in recent centuries as Cornwall began to amalgamate into England; but in recent decades there has been a revival, supported by many groups who promote Cornwall’s culture.
So while on holiday, if you have the time to look under the surface, there is a lot to learn about the Cornish culture, including language, literature, folklore, religion, symbols, art, architecture, music, food, sports, films and traditional dress.
Cornish Culture: Montol Festival
Cornish Flag and National Anthem
Each nation in the UK has its own flag and national anthem:-
- English flag is a red cross on a white background
- Scottish flag is a white X on a blue background
- Flag of Northern Ireland is a red X on a white background
- Welsh flag is a red dragon
- Cornish flag is a white cross on a black background
The Union Jack (flag of the UK) is an amalgamation of the Northern Irish, Scottish and English flags.
Outside of the tourist areas of London you rarely see the Union Jack, unless visiting the Protestant areas of Northern Ireland where the Union Jack seems to be everywhere. In England (outside of London), you are more likely to see the English flag, rather than the Union Jack, especially during the football season.
As with Wales and Scotland, and their own flags; in Cornwall, you are more likely to see the Cornish flag flying rather than the English flag or Union Jack.
National Anthem of Cornwall: Sung in Cornish, With English Subtitles
As with every nation in the UK, Cornwall has its own iconic foods, specifically the Cornish pasty and Cornish Cream Tea.
When we visit Cornwall, or Devon, we always make a point of treating ourselves to a Cornish or Devon Cream Tea. There is nowhere else in England (or anywhere else in the world) that can replicate the delight of a Cornish or Devon Cream Tea.
Devon and Cornwall are neighbouring counties in South West England, and both have similar cuisine e.g. pasty, cream tea etc., and the cream teas in both counties are identical except of one fundamental difference:-
- Cornish Cream Tea is where the jam is spread on the scone and the cream is placed on top of the jam.
- Devonshire Cream Tea is where the cream is placed on the scone first, and the jam is placed on top of the cream.
Cornish vs Devonshire Cream Tea
As a vegetarian I don’t eat the Cornish pasty, but by all accounts it is something to be savoured.
The Cornish Pasty: History and Recipe
Not Suitable for American Drivers
There are some main roads in Cornwall, but by far more common most of the Cornish roads are very narrow (no wider than a vehicle), even though they are for two-way traffic; so traversing them can be a challenge at the best of times.
Many of the Cornish roads date back to the 8th century and were originally the dirt tracks peasants used to travel between villages and to get to the town markets. The verges on most of these roads are a haven for wildlife, including flora and fauna, so these roads are recognised as part of the outstanding natural beauty of the Cornish countryside, and as such they have official legal protective status. Therefore, it is an extremely difficult process for a Local Government to obtain consent from the National Government for road improvements, including road widening.
On the basis that pictures speak louder words, this choice video below is just one of many from our recent Cornish holiday, highlighting some of the delights of driving on narrow Cornish roads. You can vote in the poll below on whether would enjoy driving on such roads, and expand upon your answer in the comments box.
Driving from Lansallos to Polruan Fishing Village in Cornwall
Would you relish driving Cornish Roads?
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Arthur Russ