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The Spectator, 1916: Why we still speak of England

Against partisans for the use of 'British'

25 June 2016

8:00 AM

25 June 2016

8:00 AM

From ‘English or British?’, The Spectator, 25 June 1916: We wish that this question of ‘England’ or ‘Britain’ could be settled satisfactorily, for the outbursts of the touchy champions of ‘Britain’ rather overwhelm us at times. Besides, it is always disagreeable to find that one has offended friends when no offence was intended. Peace and security might be attained, people tell us, by making an absolute rule never to say ‘England’ and ‘English’ (except, of course, when we are talking of England as a geographical area distinct from Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) when we mean ‘Britain’ and ‘British’…  But an absolute rule is not practicable. ‘British’ is not always interchangeable with ‘English’. Does any one seriously propose, for instance, that we should talk of the ‘British language’ or of ‘British literature’?


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