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Qwghlm is a fictional location, featured in the books Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Qwghlm consists of a pair of islands, Inner Qwghlm and Outer Qwghlm, off the northwestern coast of Great Britainmarker. The islands are geographically similar to the Hebridesmarker. The language, particularly the spelling, parodies Welsh: according to Stephenson, a very approximate pronunciation of "Qwghlm" is Taggum.

Inner Qwghlm is "hardly an island", being joined to Britain by a sandbar that comes and goes with the tide. By the time of World War II (as depicted in Cryptonomicon), this sandbar has been "beefed up with a causeway that carries a road and the railway line." Outer Qwghlm is about 20 miles off the coast. Qwghlmians are renowned among British mariners for their skill as navigators, a skill they acquired while dodging the treacherous reefs that surround the islands.

The Qwghlmian nobility were exterminated in the eighth century AD, when they were sealed up in a cave with a few bears by the Scots. There were no more Qwghlmian nobles until the 17th Century when Eliza was made first la Comtesse de la Zeur by Louis XIV and then Duchess of Qwghlm by William of Orange. By the 1940s, the Outer Qwghlmian noble was a dotty German immigrant, Lord Woadmire, with the title Duke of Qwghlm.

Qwghlm has its own language, Qwghlmian, which has a Runic alphabet. It has no vowels and 16 consonants (a convenient number for rendering in a four-digit binary code). The language is described in Quicksilver as being so pithy that a 30,000-character letter in Qwghlmian is 40,000 words long translated into Latin. Inner and Outer Qwghlm have their own separate dialects. Although the Romanised version resembles Welsh, it is a language isolate, i.e. it has no relation with any other known language (in this sense it has been compared to Basque).

Qwghlm's status as a sovereign nation is not fully clear, though unlike England it was never conquered by the Roman Empire. By the time of the Baroque Cycle (late 17th to early 18th century) it is a duchy of the United Kingdommarker. Cryptonomicon hints it has the status of Crown dependency, like the Isle of Manmarker and the Channel Islands.

See also

  • Kinakuta: Another fictional location from Stephenson's work



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