Sunday, March 23, 2008
So, you want to have a good time with a British person? Try asking them what the name is of the country that they're from.
First they'll be very sure and tell you something like "England" or "The U.K." But they they'll start to waffle and say "Great Britain" and try to explain that, well, "Great Britain" really only refers to the one island. If you question them further they'll get belligerent and tell you they don't need to have a simple little name for their country because they've been around for more than 250 years (to which you say "Yeah? Like Spain? Or France?")
Then they'll start screaming and throwing things and shouting about the Scottish Parliament, North Sea oil, and the Magna Carta.
It's about at this point you realize that they just aren't going to answer the question.
I actually had a British ex-pat try to explain that England was a sovereign state because England can compete in the World Cup (I replied "So, if me and some of my blokes were to play a game of footie with Manchester United, we'd be a country too?")
And you can't say "What country are you a citizen of?" because as an Irish fellow once pointed out: "Well, they aren't citizens, they're subjects."
Just imagine his thick Irish brogue and single raised eyebrow peering over a pint of beer in a dim bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and you'll get the gist of centuries of pent-up irony lobbed at his neighbors across the Irish sea...
In any case, the question can be put more precisely: "What is the name of the sovereign state you are a citizen of?" And yes, you can use citizen to mean "subject". (Actually you can be a subject of this country without being a citizen but I don't wanna go into that because it just gets too wacky.)
Anyway, I finally found the name of their weird country:
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
That's right. "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." Apparently they don't teach that in their schools. Or perhaps it's too ridiculous of a name for them to say out loud.
Yes, we're quite aware the license plates are from the Netherlands.