Friday, February 26, 2010

British, Americans and the problem of names

click photo to enlarge
People get confused about the name of the group of small islands off the western edge of mainland Europe. Geographically speaking they are known as the British Isles, though people in Eire (The Republic of Ireland) might wish for a name that doesn't emphasise Britain quite so much. The political name for the majority of the area of the islands is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), a term that embraces the constituent countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Great Britain is a name that covers the first three of these but excludes Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland (Eire) is an independent country in its own right. This isn't properly understood by many in the UK, so it's not surprising that people from other countries struggle with it.

There is further confusion about how to term a native of the UK. "British" (not the hideous modern term, "Brit") is used to describe anyone from the four countries. However, people who should know better - journalists especially - often use England and English instead, much to the annoyance of the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish. Is there any wonder that the other day the Argentine foreign minister made the same mistake when some of the natives of these islands aren't sufficiently precise in their usage.

But it's not only in the UK where these kind of problems are found. Take the United States of America. The people of that country refer to themselves as Americans; and so they are. But they use the name in such a way that suggests it applies only to natives of the U.S.A., something that doesn't go down well in Canada, Mexico and the myriad countries of Central and South America who also see themselves (quite rightly) as Americans because that is the continent on which they reside. Perhaps the people of the United States need a second name in the way that the people of Canada, Chile and all the other countries on the American continent do. I have heard Usanian put forward as a possible answer! How does that sound, or would it be as unwelcome as Brit is to me?

What has this got to do with a small water-course among the trees at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire? Not a great deal. In fact nothing at all.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On