Posted by David FG on December 21, 2004

In Reply to: Britishness posted by Henry 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

: Now that's a good question! For most purposes, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland wouldn't willingly be classed together. We do share a passport, but it doesn't shed much light on the matter; 'Her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary'.

We are in danger of getting in to very murky waters here, but I would say many of the residents of the North of Ireland would consider themselves to be very much a part of the UK. A slightly smaller part of the population most certainly do not.

As a citizen of the Republic of Ireland resident in the UK I try to keep my head down!