Wednesday, March 23, 2011

English? British? Explained

I'm following on from a discussion started by Calif Lorna on her blog - where she pleads with the US Postal Service  to recognize that Wales is not actually in England. I sympathized with her pain, as the same thing happened to me quite recently - and I thought I'd share the tutorial.

I was filling out paperwork for my US citizenship process last year - I handed my form over and watched in amazement when the INS agent crossed out my stated citizenship 'British', and with a measured look and a flourish, replaced it with 'English'.

I've been here for 15 years so I know enough about INS agents to just suffer in silence - but she was wrong. I have a British passport. I am British. It just so happens that I am also English, but I don't have an English passport. Also, she had no idea where in the British Isles I was actually from, so to just replace British with English was pretty bad. I might have been a disgruntled Scotsman armed with a live haggis after all.

Incidentally - I also now have an American passport, but in scanning my photo they have both managed to turn me yellow and broken my nose, so I think I look better as a Brit quite frankly.

Back to the story. Some of you won't understand what we're getting in such a flap about. Some of you will be muttering 'semantics' or clicking further down my blog hoping to find the 'boobs in Utah' you had googled for. A lot of you will be thinking that saying 'how was London?' is a good blanket question for anyone from that side of the pond.

If you're American I'm not saying you ought to know what constitutes the UK, and why that differs from Great Britain - you after all have 50 States to keep track of, and that's usually all the geography you need entertain yourself with. But maybe you've wondered. Why did that charming man with the thick Glaswegian accent get all shirty when you introduced him as English? Why do people care?

This video found by my good friend Rod goes a long way in explaining it all - and fast. He wondered if I knew the real differences - and I felt duty bound to remind him that I have a Masters Degree in Geography, so yes, I did know it, but that's also why I just work in a medical office *ahem*.

Get ready for Venn diagrams.

Som Calif Lorna may be at odds with the USPS, but i have to say that the good old British Mail just came up trumps by delivering a card to me from Scotland that had a 2nd class stamp on it. No air mail denial, no 'returned for insufficient postage', just a curt note on the back that 'due to incorrect postage this piece of item was diverted to an alternative service'. It arrived 4 months late, and I can now stop chuntering that my cousin never thanked me for his wedding kettle (no expense spared), but still, Scotland to California on a 2nd class stamp. That's service.


itsgrimupnorth said...

For final and absolute clarification. Andy Murray is Scottish until he wins a Grand Slam tournament at which point he becomes British.

Calif Lorna said...

That's such a good video! And how confusing is it?! To be fair, I totally understand why USPS don't get it I just wish they'd listen to me!

mcCutcheon said...

That video is fantastic. Although I do think my mind is a little hyper now, so fucking fast... those are the moments that make me remember that English (British? ;) is not my native language.

btw I'm from Austria so we get
a) people who can't tell it apart from AustrALia (hence the "no kangaroos in Austria"-tee shirts) and
b) people who think we're part of Germany (ouch, thank you very much, that didn't work out too well for anyone in the past, now did it).

sadly, both of these mistakes seem to be rather US-focused... what DO they teach in schools there? And how, on the other hand, can the universities be so good?

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