Poor old Dolly Pentreath must be turning over in her grave. “The pasty originated in Cornwall, England.” (“Pasty and present,” Feb. 9) Why not, Wales, England; Scotland, England; the Isle of Man, England; Ireland, England while we’re at it?
Dear Maeve, the Cornish are no more English than are the Welsh or the Scots or the Manx or the Irish. They are all Celts. All inhabitants of the British Isles, granted. But Celts whose original languages, and, to a regrettably large extent, culture have been widely replaced, at times very brutally, by that of their Anglo-Saxon, also known as English, neighbors.
A Cornish friend of mine always referred to Elizabeth II as “the queen of England,” never as her queen. Also, I remember an interview of the actor Robert Shaw, of Jaws fame, who, on being asked by Johnny Carson whether he was English or Irish, answered: “I am neither. I am Cornish, and we hate the English.” Whether he spoke for all Cornishmen or not is neither here nor there. But he did put it very succinctly: The Cornish are not English, and their land, Cornwall—call it what you want, a county, a duchy—is no more in England than is Caernavon or Ulster.
As for poor old Dolly Pentreath, she was the last native speaker of Cornish. She died many, many years ago, and with her the language. That she was Cornish is beyond doubt, for as the saying goes: “By Tre, Pol, and Pen/Shall ye know all Cornishmen.” This also applies to the Cornishwomen, who turned out pasties for the sustenance of their men who labored in Cornwall’s infamous tin mines.
As for the pronunciation, the first syllable of pasty is pronounced as in past tense, what went before. It is most definitely not pronounced as paste as in library paste. That would refer to something quite different.