We asked what you really think about the word ’emmet’

Whether you’ve lived in Cornwall for a few months or many years – you’re probably familiar with the word ’emmet’.

Used to describe the crowds of visitors that frequently visit our beautiful county, over more recent years the word has become a point of discussion.

For decades, if not centuries, the people of Cornwall have used the word, often in an affectionate way, but some have argued that the term is derogatory, divisive and even racist.

Ironically, the word emmet is not even Cornish. It is commonly thought to derive from the word for ant – the analogy is that tourists are often red in colour and mill around.

However, the use of emmet is actually derived from the Old English word æmete, which is where the modern English word ‘ant’ comes from.

Some think of it as a jovial term of endearment for the visitors who are the lifeblood of much of Cornwall’s economy.

(Image: Erin Black/Cornwall Live)

Others believe it is an offensive term for “out of towners” that should not be used so freely in modern society.

So, we wanted to know what you thought – and over 1500 of you got back to us.

A huge 70% of participants said they don’t find the word offensive, while the remainder thought it could be interpreted as an insult, or used in an insulting context.

The vast majority of participants knew that the word tends to be used when referring to a tourist or holidaymaker in the Cornwall area, but there were other different interpretations.

One reader wrote: “I think it refers to tourists that resemble ants swarming into Cornwall.”

Another said: “To me it means people coming into the county that abuse our beautiful landscape and beaches. In all my years as a visitor before becoming to resident, I would like to think I was always respectful.”

We also asked whether or not participants had used the word to describe someone recently – and a surprising 63% said they had, while some who selected no, said they had used it in the past.

“I haven’t used it recently but I have in the past. It’s just a word. If it didn’t exist people would still moan about tourists by simply referring to them as ‘tourists’. The reference to it coming from old English is irrelevant,” one reader said.

While another added: “its been used to describe me before, but I’ve lived here six years now and I have no problem with it.”

Cornwall Live