Thursday, 5 April 2012

Pop: The Myth of Being British

When checking the comments on our Let’s Play today, we were yet again referred to as ‘British people.’ This term is used whenever we meet an American and is perhaps one of the most frustrating things about meeting people on the internet; I’ve lost count of the amount of times we have had to explain it to friends, acquaintances and the like.

So I decided to use this post as an opportunity to explain once and for all my nationality to the ignorant Americans who appear to have no comprehension of it.

The British Isles is the name for the land mass which I live on and includes five countries. England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Four of these countries have banded together and refer to themselves as the United Kingdom. The fifth, Ireland, is a republic and not part of the UK.
‘British’ is therefore not a proper nationality. It doesn’t refer to a country but rather any person who belongs to one of five countries that aren’t all related to each other politically or culturally. The term ‘British’ is therefore equivalent in many ways to the term European: wrong, misguided, and a sign of slightly racist tendencies of certain countries in the world to group unrelated people together.

Like Europe, people in the United Kingdom speak different languages. Admittedly English is the most widespread but the majority of people in Wales speak Welsh and it is written on all of their signs, Northern Ireland speaks forms of Irish, and Scottish Gaelic is spoken in small parts of Scotland. We don’t even all speak the same language and yet we are consistently all put into this category of ‘British’ by people who don’t understand anything about us. The stereotype ‘Mary Poppins’ or ‘Cockney’ British person is applicable only to English people and even then only a very small proportion in the South of the country, and yet I have met Americans who genuinely seem to believe that we’re all like that. It’s so stupid I find myself speechless when presented with it.

This post is a perfect opportunity for me to point out the tautologous term ‘British English.’ I was called arrogant once by an American when I politely pointed out that the term makes no sense when it’s our language which is a memory I laugh at even now. Ignoring the fact that British is a redundant term anyway, referring the English brand of English as ‘British English’ is the most retarded thing that I have ever heard. The language English originated in England, as French did in France and German did in Germany. Our languages are named according to the country in which they are primarily spoken. But because America speaks an altered version of it, the people seem to believe that they have some sort of ownership over the language which they speak because of their historical connection to us. I don’t think that anyone would have a problem with the term American English but there is an attitude that the language originated with Americans and we speak an altered version of it, hence the term British English to separate it. If not that, then at least an arrogant attitude that the language is just a given and we should all declare the country that we come from and therefore the version we speak.

Whatever the reason, it is very much an American phenomenon. I’ve never heard an Australian call it ‘British English’ or anyone else from around the world in fact use the belittling prefix. Most people seem to accept that they are speaking ‘English’ and the country they are in is irrelevant. Maybe with America it’s just because they don’t like the association with us, maybe it’s because they don’t know England is a country. Whichever, it is very insulting.

Back to the conversation about the term that I had, after calling me arrogant the fellow author that I was talking to then continued on to say that the term ‘English’ was archaic and that by using it I was living in the past.

Is this really what my nationality has come down to? Me speaking my native tongue is ‘archaic’ because some American doesn’t like where their native tongue originates from. It’s so petty, particularly when nobody has a problem with the term American English or even just American. 

When I was younger that was always the way people distinguished our languages and nobody had a problem with it. It comes from the whole ‘world ownership’ mentality that is so prevalent in the USA nowadays and is particularly annoying when we did nothing to deserve it. We never tried to claim our language back or anything like that; we were happy speaking proper English and ignoring the variations. But now it is a fight for me, as an English person, to be able to refer to my mother tongue as English.

To be honest, with the way that English has been bastardised by Americans, we don’t want any association between proper English and American, or simplified English as it is in truth. As much as Americans may not like it, the language that comes from England is English because the language comes from here and is first and foremost our language. The reason that American’s speak it is, as I said before, because we as countries share a history. That doesn’t mean that the language is any less ours.

There is one perfect example to defeat the term British English. Canadians speak French Canadian, that doesn’t mean that we call French ‘French French’ or ‘European French.’ 

There are no problems there.

The only problem that exists with English is the fact that Americans speak it and our combined history seems to make them uncomfortable. Like the spoilt bully in your class at school, they always think they should have things their way.

So in conclusion, the next time you, as an ignorant and quite frankly racist American, are going to refer to a person as ‘British’ how about checking which country they come from first. 

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