[Spellyans] The Cornish for 'cousin'

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Jul 21 11:18:26 BST 2014

The Cornish for ‘cousin’

Nance for ‘cousin’ recommends kenderow m., pl. kendyrewy and kenytherow f., pl. kenythyrewy. The masculine singular form according to Nance is based on Lhuyd’s canderu. He cites no source for the feminine, nor for either of the plural forms. I have been unable to find Lhuyd’s canderu; it does not seem to be in Archaeologia Britannica nor in Lhuyd’s manuscript dictionary MS Llanstephan 84 in the National Library of Wales.
The ordinary word for ‘cousin’ in Cornish, however, is cosyn m., pl. cosyns, which is well attested. I have collected the following examples:

wolcom cayphas re iouyn and yk annas me cosyn ‘welcome, Caiaphas and also my cousin Annas’PC 1687-88
wel thow fare syr cayfas and yk me cosyn annas ‘farewell, Sir Caiaphas, and also my cousin Annas’ PC 1805-06
Wel we met, cosyn, forsoth ’barth in forest ow arluth ‘Well we meet, cousin, indeed within the forest of my lord’ BK 40-41
E vannath genas, cosyn, du plegadow the wor ha gwrek ‘His blessing go with you, cousin, a god kind to man and wife’ BK 651-53
Dun ahanan, cosyn ker, the Rosewa heb danger ‘Let us go hence, dear cousin, to Rosewa without delay’ BK 1099-100
Gentyl cosyn, whethyr gost? ‘Gentle cousin, whither art thou going?’ BK 1345
Welcum, cosin, by my soul! ‘Welcome, cousin, by my soul’ BK 1346
My duer cosyn, wel etak! ‘My dear cousin, well taken!’ BK 1355
Cosyn whek, dun ny warbarth ‘Sweet cousin, let us go together’ BK 1373
I pray you, gentyl cosyn, whetherward be you goyng? ‘I pray you, gentle cousin, where are you going?’ BK 1386-87
ha prag e rug dyelha ow cosyns heb mur awher ‘and why did he avenge himself on my cousins without hesitation?’ BK 1838-39
Lavar the’th arluth, cosyn ‘Tell your lord, cousin…’ BK 2112
Dar, ny worthebys mynrew prag e fuldrys ow cosyns ‘What, did greybeard not reply why he murdered my cousins?’ BK 2285-86
Ow sockors da ha’m cosyns, prederough a’gys tasow ‘My worthy allies and my cousins, remember your forefathers’ BK 2818-19
Farwell, ru’m fer! ow cosyn whek ‘Farewell, by my ?fair, my sweet cousin’ BK 2892-93
Ow bannath genas, cosyn! In gulas nef re omgyffyn ‘My blessing with you, cousin. May we meet again in the kingdom of heaven’ BK 3048-49
Welcum, cosyn Chellery! ‘Welcome, cousin Childerich!’ BK 3245

Several things are to be noticed there. First the overwhelming majority of the instances of cosyn, cosyns occur in BK, a text unknown to Nance. Secondly some of the attestations occur in English sentences. Thirdly, cosyn does not mean ‘cousin’ in the strict sense of offspring of one’s uncle or aunt, but is used more generally to mean ‘relative’ or ‘friend’. Even when we have taken those points into consideration, it remains that cosyn, cosyns is an attested word in Cornish for ‘cousin’. It seems to me preferable to use cosyn for ‘cousin’, rather than the elusive canderu/kynderow and the wholly unattested *kenytherow.

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