Penguins are Welsh.
No, I haven’t just lost my last marble behind the sofa. Penguins are Welsh and language is amazing.
In Welsh, pen = head. Gwyn = white. Literally – white head / pen gwyn.
So how did the stars of Happy Feet end up with a Welsh name? That’s where it gets really interesting.
You see, in days of yore, people in England, Scotland and Wales used pengwyn as a generic name for any white-headed seabird. Most seabirds found around the coasts of what is now the UK were referred to as “penguins”. And as people explored further south, past South Africa, past Australia, they came to a vast white continent inhabited by white-headed birds that looked, on the surface, very similar to the birds they had left behind in the North.
You can almost imagine them saying, “Look! There are pengwyns here too!”
And while language has shifted over time and the use of the word “penguin” for sea birds has died out in the Northern hemisphere, in Antarctica and southern climes the name has stuck, and penguins are still penguins.
And that’s why penguins are Welsh, and words are brilliant.