Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Welsh Rabbits and Midwifery

The wonderful things you find in dictionaries. This from Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811):

Welch Rabbit

[i.e. a Welch rare-bit] Bread and cheese toasted. See Rabbit.—The Welch are said to be so remarkably fond of cheese, that in cases of difficulty their midwives apply a piece of toasted cheese to the janua vita to attract and entice the young Taffy, who on smelling it makes most vigorous efforts to come forth.

Incidentally, it is, or was, Welsh rabbit before it was Welsh rare-bit. The rather unkind idea was that Welsh things were poor substitutes*. For example, a Welsh carpet was a pattern painted, or stained, onto a brick floor; a Welsh diamond is a rock crystal; and a Welsh comb is your fingers.

Do any Welsh midwives read this blog? Is this still the standard method?

Come on out

*But Ian Rush was great.

P.S. Janua vita[e] means the gate of life. Its meaning should be obvious; if it's not, consult your parents. The usual Latin phrase is Mors janua vitae, meaning Death is the gate to [everlasting] life. It's therefore the same root as January and janitor and Janus.


  1. I've heard of similar suggestions regarding the use of sausages to entice a tapeworm out via another "portal".

  2. I know that joke, although I think I heard it with apples and biscuits. The important point is the mallet on the third day.

  3. Having been through the event myself, with a midwife (neither of us being Welsh though, I would like to suggest that maybe it would work. My midwife said that babies come when they are ready and in their own time which means that a little bit of bribery might go a long way. On the other hand, that would be like saying that spreading some braaivleis (more or less bbq meat) for a South African baby would work just as effectively, and that's completely gross.

  4. Or a herring for a Norwegian, and a French baby would probably come out for a nice pack of Gauloises and a saucy novel.

  5. How cheesy can you get?! LOL

  6. M.H. Forsyth, that made me laugh out loud :D

  7. Thank you for this. It's obviously my 1/4 Welshness and the manner of my birth that makes cheese toast my favourite lunch.

    Laughter here too at M.H. Forsyth.

  8. Ian Rush wouldn't be happy being called a substitute! He had a great nose for goals.

  9. Beautiful titbit of information - I am going to strive to bring this back into use immediately. (Although the Welsh side of my family may be less amused...)