Terminology of the British Isles

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bananas, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. Bananas

    Bananas Endangered Species

    As there seems to be a little confusion amonst the forum. To help people understand how Britain, the UK, England and the what nots work. I with a little help from Wikipedia shall explain. It is important to note the difference between geogrphical and political terminology.

    Here we have a visual representation of all the terms and how they can be grouped together. This is basically all you need to know.


    This most probably does not make to much sense to most, so I ll explain further.

    The British Isles:

    This is the geographical collective of islands(an archipalego) situated off the Northwest mainland of Europe. It consists of over 6000 islands. The Image above is incorrect in that it includes the Channel Isles(the red dots next to the French coast....if you dont know which bit is France it is the greyed out area at the bottom of the picture

    There is another group of Islands a little further North called the Faroe Isles but these like the Channel Isles are not a part of the geographical archipalego and largely not relevant to this discussion.

    The largest Island of the British Isles is that of Great Britain
    followed by Ireland
    . Even though Ireland does form a part of the "British Isles", outside of a geographical context it is best not to refer to it as being anything British. This is largely to do with the political situation and troubled past of the two neighbouring islands.

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or UK for short)


    This is the political term given to the soverign nation recognized by the UN. As the name suggests it includes the larger island of Great Britain and also a section in Northern Ireland, it also includes many other smaller islands but not all of them. Most notably the isle of Man
    and the previously mentioned Channel Isles. However both these island groups come under UK protectorate and have differnt legislative powers with.

    The UK has become known as Britain or to be British, this is perfectly acceptable with the exception of Northern Ireland where the population is divided after a troubled history (its usualy best to call them Irish).

    Republic of Ireland


    Also known as Eire. This has nothing to do with the UK or Britain, it is a seperate country entirely. Just as Canada is to the USA. The people here are Irish (never British).

    Great Britain


    The larger of the two islands and the one that is the name sake for the UK is further divided into three constitutional countries.





    These three nations along with Nothern Ireland (see above) form the UK. Each nation has varying degrees of devolved government and asymetrical federalism as the traditional governing bodies based in Westminister(london) are passed to the devolved governing bodies of the seperate nations. All the nations share fiscal systems and similar primary legislation, but they differ significantly when it comes to secondary legislation. Each country has its own flag, national anthem, football team and to some degree different languages.

    When referring to each member state it is correct to refer to them individually(ie, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish). When refering to the collective it is best to refer to them as British**, Britain or as the UK

    **With the exception of Northern Ireland where it is better to call them Irish.

    Basic rule of thumb:

    Anything on the left island is Irish, anything on the right is British.

    If you are refering to the UK refer to it as the UK and not England, unless of course you are refering exclusivly to England only.

    Beware the wrong word in the wrong place can be offensive.

    If you are not paying attention or do not understand then click this:

    If you want to learn more please visit here


    Any questions?

  2. Cait

    Cait Oh, poppycock.

    I actually got a lot out of the chart. It explains a lot, even though I never really wondered.
  3. Rebeccaaa

    Rebeccaaa yellow 4!

    Yeah, the diagram at the top was helpful. I didn't really need to read the rest. HOWEVER I DID STILL CLICK ALL THE SPOILERS. :mad::lol:
  4. English-Emo-Boy

    English-Emo-Boy Supreme System Lord V.I.P. Lifetime

    I pretty much knew that anyway but it's oh so easy to get confused or to make errors when describing our regions.

    I blame the Isle of Man!!
  5. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    Since yesterday, I've read more than once, thanks to Wes, that there's no such thing as British (the collective term). What do you say about it?
  6. Rebeccaaa

    Rebeccaaa yellow 4!

    I noticed that too, I'd like him to explain himself :dunno::lol:

    Of course you can be British.
    ysabel likes this.
  7. wooly

    wooly I am the woolrus

    That's a great guide Bananas. I always come across people who think that even the Republic of Ireland is part of the UK (despite the small clue in the name that it is in fact a republic :p)
  8. Bananas

    Bananas Endangered Species

    Hey Wooly,

    How would you say the best method to describe those from Northern Ireland are, specificaly to distinguish them from yourselves, not saying that you should but if you had too?

    Could you say Northern Irish, or maybe Ulstermen, sometimes Ive even heard them as Scots but that would confuse them with the Scottish in the same way as the term Irish confuses them with yourselves.

    Im not after the political, ethnical or official answer but the most favourable answer to give them their own exclusive identity as the people of Northern Ireland.
  9. wooly

    wooly I am the woolrus

    Most people in southern Ireland would probably use 'Northern Irish', and would have no real problem doing so. Nationalists from Northern Ireland though would probably refer to themselves as 'Irish' and if they were to distinguish themselves they'd most likely use the phrase "from up north" as opposed to using the phrase "Northern Ireland".

    The best option is just to go with 'Irish', but generally people don't really get too offended either way. Maybe unless you're talking to someone in the IRA i guess :p
    Bananas likes this.

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