October 19, 2006

Welsh Beef

This week's Macleans has a little piece on page 82 entitled "This Week's Special…Welsh-speaking Beef".

A farm is supplying the British Mark's & Spencer chain of stores with Welsh beef known for its tenderness. The secret, according to an M&S spokesman, is that, at Cig Calon Cymru farm, the Welsh Black cows take their leisure on foam mattresses while farmhands whisper to them only in Welsh. The language, explains Manchester University linguist Martin Berry, "is more melodic than English," and that relaxes the animals.

Hmm. It is plausible that animals that are more relaxed will produce better beef. Stress-levels affect hormone production, which could have an impact on the meat. But do cows really find Welsh more relaxing than English? I checked with Martin Barry (which is the correct spelling of his name), who tells me that he said no such thing. He reports that when he was asked about this by a reporter, he replied that Welsh English is said to be more "lilting" than other varieties of English, which probably reflects a difference in pitch accent alignment, but that he had no idea whether cows find Welsh more relaxing than English. This is why many scholars won't talk to reporters.

Whether the Prince of Wales uses Welsh when he speaks to plants has not been reported, but if they'll send along some of that beef, Language Log Labs will be glad to check out its tenderness.

Posted by Bill Poser at October 19, 2006 03:25 PM