Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Stop calling it the 'British Isles'!

The Irish Isles! While visiting Pub Philosopher yesterday I was reminded of one of my pet peeves - the term, 'British Isles'.

Steve wrote:

"Have you ever tried to explain the difference between England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles to a foreigner? Come to that, explaining it to another Englishman can be a challenge."

Now if you're Irish this immediately sets alarm bells ringing in your head because most Irish people do not like the term 'British Isles' and in the Irish Republic, the term is no longer used in Irish state documents, has been abandoned in schoolbooks and is gradually being phased out of textbooks.

I back this stance as the term has led to confusion in the past such as when the then Soviet Union Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, during a stop-over visit to the Republic of Ireland, indicated that he presumed Ireland's head of state was the British Queen Elizabeth, given that she was the British Queen and his officials said that Ireland was a part of the British Isles.

Personally I like the term 'IONA' - Islands Of the North Atlantic - which was actually coined by a British Conservative minister, Sir John Biggs-Davison. It's a nice term. Short and sweet.

With that being said, I think in the interest of fairness we should look at some other potential terms:

- The Isles - Not very catchy admittedly but at least it's harmless.

- The Irish Isles - Let's see how you Brits take to that!

- LIBI (Little Island, Big Island) - Seeing as this is one I've just invented myself, I personally wouldn't object to it.

- Little and Large - Might be copyright issues with this one...

- The Teddy Bear and..whatever the hell you call Britain - This one might not take off.

Tell us about your thoughts on the term 'British Isles' or feel free to come up with your own term for the islands!


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