A PROPOSAL by a Welsh language group to scrap the name "Wales" in favour of "Cymru" was yesterday described as "bonkers" and "crackers".
Cymuned, the pressure group founded to defend Welsh-speaking communities, decided at its conference that because "Wales" derives from a Latin root meaning foreigner, it should no longer be used to designate our nation. Equally, people should no longer be described as "Welsh", but as "Cymro" or "Cymraes", depending whether they are male or female.
Cymuned also decided to call for English place names in Wales to be scrapped. Carmarthen would therefore always be referred to as Caerfyrddin, Brecon as Aberhonddu, Cardiff as Caerdydd and Swansea as Abertawe.
Cymuned spokesman Aran Jones said, "We think it is very realistic to get rid of the name Wales and always use Cymru. "At a time when the Assembly Government has decided our nation should become bilingual - meaning that in the longer term the aim is for everyone to be able to speak Welsh and English - we think it appropriate that a sense of communal belonging should be fostered. However loyal people may feel to 'Wales', the fact is that the name is an artificial construction that was forced on our country.
"It comes from a Latin root meaning 'foreigner', as does the term 'Walloons' in Belgium. The key point is that it's not a very nice thing for us to swallow.
"'Cymru' is the historical name given to our nation by its own people and it is right that it should be the sole official name of the country now."
On the issue of place names, Mr Jones said, "At present there is a very real barrier, with the same place having two sometimes very different names. Sometimes this results in confusion - it was only recently, for example, that I discovered that Llanelwy and St Asaph were the same place.
"Given the choice between using native original names and others imposed from outside, it surely makes sense to use the original."
Monmouth Tory AM David Davies said, "This is bonkers. I think Cymuned is in severe danger of creating a huge backlash at a time when increasing numbers of people are showing goodwill towards it.
"In Monmouthshire there is some resentment that still exists about bilingual road signs and any suggestion that the name Monmouth should be scrapped in favour of Mynwy would be greeted with outrage.
"As someone who has learned Welsh, I tend to use Welsh names when speaking Welsh and English ones when speaking English. There are place names in England that are derived from Welsh. Using Cymuned's logic, I suppose Dover, which derives from Dr, should be renamed Watertown.
"Cymuned has made a useful contribution to debates about affordable housing, for example, but if they are going to come up with ideas like this, they will not be taken seriously."
Rhondda Labour AM Leighton Andrews said, "I think Cymuned must be crackers. I am sure my constituents will continue to chant for Wales at football and rugby internationals at the Millennium Stadium. I can't see this one being much of a runner."
A Wales Tourist Board spokesman said, "The Wales Tourist Board ensures through its marketing logo - Wales (dragon image) Cymru - that there is recognition in the UK and internationally that we are a bilingual nation.
" It is essential when marketing to build on the current awareness of Wales as a recognisable brand name within the UK and as an emerging tourism destination for international visitors.
"We need to use the name that has most resonance with our potential visitor - in France for instance Wales would be Pays de Galles."
At its conference Cymuned also adopted a new strategy including an intention to publish a Declaration of the Rights of the Fro Gymraeg, a document which will call on all levels of government to recognise the existence and special requirements of Welsh-speaking areas.
"Geographic strongholds are essential in the process of defending and promoting any minority language," said Cymuned member Tim Webb, who has contributed significantly to developing the new strategy.