It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Welsh spellings. First VisitBritain captioned a picture of the Brecon Beacons with ‘Breacon Beacons’. And then the people running the tourist website for the Snowdonia village Betws-y-Coed discovered that visitors to the site had typed an astonishing 364 different misspellings of the name into search engines.
These stories serve to demonstrate the importance of always checking place names, as their spellings are often not predictable. (Despite my Welsh heritage, I still typed in ‘Betys-y-Coed’ when searching for this story – I’ve contributed another one of the 364!) And if the spellings are wrong then people get offended, and putting them right is likely to cost time and money.
With Google Maps as a reliable source of place name spellings, you no longer need the latest edition of an atlas or encyclopaedia on your shelf – so there’s really no excuse for getting these wrong.
Watch out for variant spellings in different languages: make sure you decide whether you’re going to use the anglicised spelling or not and then apply that spelling consistently (including any accents or other diacritics). I didn’t realise there were so many variant spellings in Welsh until I found this page on Welsh toponymy. (Incidentally, ‘toponymy’ – the study of place names – is now vying to become my favourite word of the week.)