Michelle’s Word

May 9, 2007

Not quite word for word: A mystery solved

Filed under: Word games — Michelle Reid @ 7:37 pm

Back when I started this blog, I mentioned it was named Michelle’s Word after my Grandma’s favourite word game “Gair y Mair”. This name, which translates as Mary’s Word, has gone down in our family folklore even though it is a corruption of the proper title.

My family have been searching for the real name of the game, and thought we’d found the answer in “Gair y Ffair” or Word Exchange / Word Fair. We were close, but we’ve recently discovered that we hadn’t quite got it word for word.

We were pretty certain that the game originated in Wales, but had no idea whether it was a fairly recent invention, or more traditional. We asked a longstanding friend of the family, Meirick Davies, to help with the search. Meirick has a close association with the Welsh Language Society. He asked some of the staff of the Language Society if they had any ideas about the origins of the game, but with no luck. In addition he wrote to the BBC in the belief it might have featured in one of their programs.

Well, Meirick came up trumps. He received a reply from the BBC saying that the game we’re looking for was probably “Gair Am Air” or A Word For A Word, which went out on Welsh radio in the 1950s. I think it may have been presented by this fine gentleman (scroll down to see his British TV and radio credits!)

The mystery is solved, and it’s easy to see how Gair Am Air became Gair y Mair to our untrained ears. The Reids have a Scottish, not a Welsh, heritage (and my Grandpa had hair as red as our Scots name!) However, we don’t really have any excuse, as my Grandma taught herself Welsh when she moved to Rhyl because she felt she should have at least a basic competency in the language of her new country. She did a little better than basic competency. She learned Welsh so well that in her role as supervisor of Rhyl Citizens Advice Bureau she was able to point out an error in the Welsh part of the CAB’s new bilingual sign!

I’ll have to ask her if she ever listened to Gair Am Air on the radio, and maybe she changed the name on purpose 🙂

and diolch yn fawr Meirick!


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