Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Being UK-ish

For all its wonder, the English language has a notable limitation, and one felt very close to home — there is no adjective to describe our statehood. You can be English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish but not, it seems, UK-ish. The preferred term, British, is inaccurate as it excludes Northern Ireland. I fear the union will forever induce confusion until someone invents a suitable word.

I resisted blogging about the Scottish Independence referendum as the arguments were done to death and, frankly, who gives a monkeys what I think. But I will note this, for all of my life I have been acutely aware of the awkwardness that comes with the words "England" and "English". To me, even today, they sit uneasily on my tongue. Maybe it's a generational baby-boomer thing. Maybe it's my background (grew up in Portsmouth, the very British home of the Royal Navy; went to university in Wales; later lived in the US) but, to me, saying "English" when you meant "British" was the height of bad manners and a display of ignorance/arrogance towards one's Celtic neighbours, as well as being plain wrong.

For three centuries the English have suppressed their national identity, unable even to claim a national day, the reason, I suppose, why people get so worked up about the England football team for its indulgence of a flag-waving pageant by proxy. Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism — misplaced or not, there's a notion of romanticism at the heart. English nationalism, English Parliament, English devolution, however... To me they still sound sinister terms. I believe I will have to get used to them.

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