Monday, April 21st, 2008

British vs. English?

The “Brits” are known among climbers here (in the US) to be bold and tough. Then I heard my MTB riding partner Bryn referred to himself as an English man. I decided to ask, “what is the difference between a British man and an English man?” Following is his answer, which I thought was very to the point and educational. Of course, someone as knowledgeable as you might dismiss it as nothing new. However, I’m not afraid to admit that I know very little about history, let alone the history of other countries, and always seem to have trouble remembering the facts. I believe I’m not alone in this department. So, possibly someone will appreciate this information sharing.


About Britain and England… well, the political entity is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK for short). That’s what’s on my passport. Britain (sometimes pronounced Great Britain) is the geographical entity: the land mass that’s divided into England, Wales, and Scotland. Though these three are sometimes called countries, they aren’t really. But they’re becoming more so, as Scotland (and so far not Wales) has got its own parliament.

Normally, no-one who lives there calls themselves British. And certainly not “Brit”. That’s an Americanism. Over there, we’re just English, Welsh, and so on.

British has yet another meaning. It’s the name of the indigenous inhabitants who were there before the Romans, the Vikings, and then the French invaded. But at least we ended up with a rich language as a result of all those foreign influences.

 Later, he added…

More on “British”… Generally speaking, passport-issuing entities have simple names (or at least simple nicknames) and simply derived terms for their citizens. Nigerian is to Nigeria (nickname for the Federal Republic of Nigeria) as Japanese is to Japan and Chinese is to China (nickname for the People’s republic of China), and so on. Both the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and the United States (of America) are different. You never hear of Yewkayish — and “British” is a kind of unofficial substitute. That annoys people from Northern Ireland. Nor do you hear of Yewessian — and “American” is a kind of unofficial substitute. That annoys people from Canada and Mexico! Silly really. But definitely stay clear of “Brit”. Over here, it’s rarely heard stand-alone; more often, it’s “Crazybrit” (one word).