Monday, April 11, 2011

Is England a country?

I alternate on this blog between finding out "British things," sharing my findings with fellow Americans, and feeding my British friends various tidbits about the U.S. which they think they already know but often don't, really. Mostly, I discover British facts and customs (much more than just language differences now) and write about what I think I've learned. I do that so you will correct my misunderstandings.

Is England a country, then? Of course it is. So are the other three. I'm still a little hazy about your dependencies or protectorates or whatever you call them. The islands. Anyway, I speak of this subject today because it is somewhat confusing to Americans. First of all, Americans know that your country is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland., or U.K. for short. Some of them do, anyway.

So.... if the name of your country is the United Kingdom, then how does England (and the others) get to be a country too? The answer, I think, lies in a history of distinct identities and cultures, the things that make up the definition of a country. Somewhere in my reading I have seen them called "home countries," but that doesn't really enlighten me. I am willing to accept that they all have their own unique identities which make them countries in their own right, not to mention they all were, at one time, in fact, separate countries. That makes the U.K. a Union of countries. E pluribus unum. Pluribus being four in this case.

I'm not trying to draw comparisons to the U.S. and the several states. I know better than to do that. Your countries have preserved their unique identities much more than the states have. So I would no more do that than I would compare cricket to... well, you know.

What I really wanted to talk about, though, and will do so in the next post on this blog, are the distinct regions of England. There are eight commonly-recognized regions in England, and I want to find out more about them and report back next time. These regions are not political entities, but rather areas which cling to their own customs and cultures (and sometimes languages.) They are mostly identified by the points of the compass, though different sources sometimes give the regions different names. More on this interesting subject next time.


  1. E PLURIBUS UNUM ought to be a good legend for the UK but there is a problem. England! While Scotland was dragged unwillingly into a union England has, whatever they say, seen the rest as 'Greater England' rather than a United Kingdom.' Had they sought to recognise the various parts as one whole there would be little problem.

    England itself is divided. The triangle on south east England running through Surrey and from Watford along the south of Essex contains awful hard attitudes, the London attitude' and most of the cash! Not all have cash of course but those who do have lots!
    The north is considered more working class with strange accents, although friendlier people. More like Scots than southerners. The mid landers are just plainly unintelligible!
    East Anglia, especially Norfolk, is flat and has many US connections through the WW2 airforce based there. There are five old aerodromes near me alone!

    1. Don't listen to old grumpy face. He's Scottish and everything he says about England is twisted with wrath. ;p

  2. I think you'll find that most "Brits" will identify themselves by their country first. This isn't because of any animosity (altho the Scots sometimes have a go!), but because the four identities are so very different and individual that I would no more proclaim myself Welsh than French.
    There is some 'in-breeding', but for many people, you can trace a family back generations and they will all be not only from the same country but the same region. I got my father's side back to 1645 in some branches. There was one Scot, no Irish and no Welsh!

  3. @Adullamite - You know how I hate to get involved in private family matters, but I HAVE heard that England... Whoops! The UK, I mean... have decided to keep Scotland on for two more years. That's fair. Even you must admit that. I am studying hard and fast about the regions, both hard and soft, awful and sweet. The only thing I know (as you probably already know from reading my more ancient posts) about East Anglia is that there are beautiful Broads there, and that a portion of it is named after a Virginia city.

  4. @Expat Mum - I am delighted with the education you all are giving me. Very interesting about your genealogy research. The inbreeding explains a lot. I mean about regional identity.

    I hope you will continue to read here as I stumble through trying to learn more about England's distinct regions. The fact that the region you've chosen to live in, Chicago, is foreboding, to say the least. Still, I look forward to what I will find out. Thank you for your comment. :)



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