phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: The British

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 21, 2004

In Reply to: The British posted by Lewis on December 20, 2004

: : : : In a news headline this morning the Associated Press used the phrase "Three British tourists" and Reuters on the same story used the pharse "Three Britons". "Britons" seemed unusual to me. Is it in common usage or did the news service use this word to shorten the headline.

: : : Speaking as a UK national, I can confirm that it's not in common usage, but it is strictly speaking a correct term. (Of course, I suppose that it's non-UK nationals who would be able to confirm more easily how common the term "Briton" is.)

: : : In the UK, when one sees the word, one's first assumption is that the ancient Britons are being referred to - the lot that Julius Caesar invaded back in 54 BC. Either way, I agree that Reuters were looking to shorten the headline.

: : To many Americans (most?), "Briton" refers to any inhabitant of the U.K., not just to those of Celtic origin or of pre-Roman Britain. Irishmen from Ireland are not usually called Britons. "Englishman" is used for persons presumed to be English, not Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Britons live in Britannia, wherever that is. But the word Briton does not fall trippingly on the American tongue. We pronounce the word Britain with a glottal stop, but we have to adopt a somewhat unnatural pronunciation for Briton, that is, an unaccented syllable introduced by "t" and ending with "n", but in which the "t" is NOT rendered by a glottal stop. So we say "Brit" instead. Or I do.
: : Now, all you genuine Englishmen, what word do YOU use when you wish to include all the inhabitants of the U.K.? SS

: The British

: L

Thanks, Henry and Lewis, for your answers to my question. I have to ask Lewis if he believes the AP and Reuters stories about three British tourists could have substituted "three British." Or would it sound better as "three of the British"? I love the thought of this phrase appearing in an American publication, where it would sound like "three of those damned British, those bloodthirsty blokes who burned our capitol in 1812." SS