Welsh Keywords: Cofio

From Planet 247

by Katie Gramich

This is the forty-third contribution to our Welsh Keywords series – inspired by Raymond Williams’ Keywords – which offers contemporary perspectives on contested meanings of words in Welsh and how these shifting meanings continue to shape our society.

Cofio’ (remembering) is everywhere in Welsh life. ‘Cofia fi ati’ (remember me to her) we say when sending greetings, and one of the commonest ways to end a letter is with ‘cofion cynnes’ (warm memories) or just ‘cofion’ (memories). We use ‘cofia’ (remember!) as a tag in our sentences, something like ‘mind you’ in English. ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ (Remember Tryweryn) the graffiti enjoins us, and we do. And the cofiannau (biographies) are published thick and fast to an avid audience, with titles like Cofio Grav, Cofio Bedwyr, Cofio Dic, Cofio Gwenallt... Rarely, we’re even invited to remember women: Cofio Merched Greenham Common. We are a people prone to remembering. After all, one of the main roles of the traditional Welsh bard was as a remembrancer; he (it was usually a he) had to be trained in the ‘Tri Chof Cenedl’ (The Three Memories of the Nation), namely: the history, language, and genealogies of Wales. Arguably, Welsh poets still hold true to that triad.

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About the author

Katie Gramich was brought up in Ceredigion and has now returned there. She is interested in women's writing and history, languages and translation, Welsh and postcolonial cultures, and wandering around her milltir sgwâr.