Someone Translated the Whole London Tube Map into Welsh

By Holly Brockwell on at

Fans of the iconic London Underground map and beautiful languages have a new collectable for their wall: rail guard David Smith has translated the whole map into Welsh.

According to Londonist, Smith was on his way back from the pub on the tube when he and some friends started translating place names for fun. Smith lives in Birmingham and doesn't speak Welsh natively, but has started learning the language because he often works on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in Snowdonia, where he meets workers and customers with Welsh as a first language.

After the initial conversation on the tube, Smith decided to go the whole hog:

"We liked the sound of it and talked about doing the whole map. I had a couple of days at home where the weather was miserable, so I started translating the tube map."

However, it wasn't straightforward – translating place names isn't the same as translating words, because there often isn't a direct equivalent of names that have changed and developed over hundreds of years.

Instead of taking the easy way out and just spelling the existing names as they'd be written in Welsh, Smith actually went into the etymology and meaning of the station names and came up with new ones that meant approximately the same in Welsh:

"For instance Bethnal Green might be something along the lines of 'Happy Corner Green', which ended up as 'Maestrohapus' in Welsh."

Even that wasn't easy, though: some of the places could be translated multiple ways, such as Baker Street – Smith could have used the Welsh for 'baker,' but chose to keep the English pronunciation with Welsh spelling because it's actually named for a person, not a literal baker.

While he had help from native Welsh speakers, Smith is keen to note that he's not yet fluent in the language and may have made mistakes, plus his North Walian dialect might differ in places to what would be spoken in the south.

He's open to suggestions for changes, and you can email him here.

You can see the whole map in all its Cymraeg glory over at Londonist.

Or, if you're not such a fan of London, there's also a Wales rugby tube map on Etsy, and a tube-style map of Cardiff from the excellently-named ILovesTheDiff.com. [Londonist]

All images: Londonist