Tag Archives: ethnicity

English and British?

A recurring subject on this blog has been the difference (and the inherent conflict) between the identities known as ‘British’ and ‘English’, respectively.

For many, if not most people in the Anglosphere, the identities and terms are interchangeable. I confess that for a good while I was prone to use the terms indiscriminately, though I understood that one can be ‘British’ but have no English blood. The two names describe something different. Even some of my readers in the UK on the old blog said that they often used the term ‘British’ when they really should have said ‘English.’

This post was prompted by a piece at the blog Christianity and Race, which in turn was inspired by a post by Mark Citadel at Citadel Foundations, titled ‘Little England’.  Good, thought-provoking pieces, both. I find little with which I can disagree in either post. I will say, with all due respect, that it may be a little unfair to attribute the ‘English vs. British’ problem to arrogance or hubris only on the part of the English. I know this is a common view of the English, as they were very much a dominant power in the world up until the early 20th century, when their empire began to break up/be broken up.

The original transformation of England into ‘Britain’ or ‘Great Britain’ began with the Act of Union in 1707. It was not by naked aggression or force on England’s part that this Union was effected, though I can certainly agree that, in retrospect, it set England on a course that was to be more damaging to the English than to any of the other ethnic groups who made up the state to be known as Great Britain, then the United Kingdom. Depending on which ethnic group your sympathies lie with, you may disagree. But it’s true that the other component ethnic groups within today’s UK can keep their ethnic identity, symbols, flags, customs, languages, and even their own parliaments, while England lacks those privileges. The English flag of St. George has been labeled ‘divisive’ and ‘hateful.’ England cannot decide its own fate without the input of the many other ethnic groups who now reside there. The English identity is labeled as ‘too exclusive’, because, let’s face it, one cannot be ‘English’ except by ancestry and by genetics. It is a blood kinship, just as is the Scottish or Welsh or Irish identity. Now, we read stories in the Irish media about the ‘new Irish’, with pictures of Africans or Asians smilingly holding their Irish citizenship papers. But no one is fooled by that; people know that Irishness is a matter of blood, as is ‘English.’ Papers and documents can’t confer Englishness  on anyone.

The comparison of the inclusive ‘British’ identity with the ‘American’ identity is a valid one; both are strictly civic identities, and thus they are artificial and arbitrary. One cannot create a real nation by fiat or by documents, and a nation is not a nation if it is based on an ideology or a ‘proposition.’  Britain, or the United Kingdom, has mistakenly followed the American example and is attempting to create a polyglot, multiracial ‘proposition nation’, and the results are looking disastrous. The Empire, unfortunately, laid the groundwork for this. Much as I admire Rudyard Kipling and his work, he tended to romanticize the Raj to some extent, and to establish the idea that someone like his character ‘Gunga Din’ could be ‘British’ in spirit though he was a Hindu. As the empire dissolved, bizarrely, the same Hindus who clamored to expel the British from their homeland soon chased after their former ‘oppressors’, desiring to live amongst them.  The same pattern happened with the Irish, many of whom chose to live in England despite their resentment of the hated ‘Brits’ in their homeland.

So it is not British, or ‘English’ hubris or ambition alone that created the situation; the circumstances are too complicated to merit that charge.

I agree with both of the cited blog posts that England should rediscover its particularistic identity, rather than clinging to this polyglot, all-things-to-all-people ‘British’ identity. I am admittedly a partisan, though I wish all the indigenous people(s) of the UK well, but I think it was the English who were and are the core of what was once ‘Great’ Britain; it was they who made it great. England, ‘Little’ or otherwise, would still be a great country should they go their own way, and let the component countries of the UK go their way.

The future, I hope, will go in the direction of decentralization, of a return to ethnic particularism, and away from polyglot, mixed-multitude empires, which eventually must end in some kind of internal strife and inevitable totalitarianism. The best case scenario would be what I call the ‘blender’, the mixing together of distinct identities into some amorphous mass, not a desirable outcome if we want to preserve the real diversity that exists amongst the various rich cultures of Europe.

Place names in the British Isles

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The map shows the pattern of settlements by Celts, Saxons, Danes, and Norwegians in the British Isles, as reflected in the place names common to those areas. It’s informative when considering the popular beliefs as to the ethnic makeup of the various regions in Britain and Ireland.

For example, it looks as though the Saxon settlement extended up into the Northeast part of Britain, and those northern regions near Scotland provided a good many of the ‘Ulster plantation’ settlers in Northern Ireland. Obviously (as is already known) those settlers were usually not ‘Celtic’ in origin, as is popularly assumed by many Americans who claim ‘Scots-Irish’ origin.

It also looks as if there was more Danish settlement in Eastern England, which was the place of origin for many New England colonists.

The map is from Isaac Taylor’s ‘Words and Places, or Etymological Illustrations of History, Etymology, and Geography’, London, 1865

Teddy Roosevelt’s view of America’s founding stock

Carleton Putnam, in his book Race and Reality, quotes Teddy Roosevelt on America’s founding stock.

“[O]n the New England Coast the English blood was as pure as in any part of Britain; in New York and New Jersey it was mixed with that of the Dutch settlers—and the Dutch are by race nearer to the true old English of Alfred and Harold than are, for example, the thoroughly Anglicized Welsh of Cornwall. Otherwise, the infusion of new blood into the English race [more accurately, English amalgam] on this side of the Atlantic has been chiefly from three sources—German, Irish, and Norse; and these three sources represent the elemental parts of the composite English stock in about the same proportions in which they were originally combined—mainly Teutonic, largely Celtic, and with a Scandinavian admixture. The descendant of the German becomes as much an Anglo-American as the descendant of the Strathclyde Celt has already become an Anglo-Briton . . . It must always be kept in mind that the Americans and the British are two substantially similar branches of the great English race, which both before and after their separation have assimilated, and made Englishmen of many other peoples. . .

I agree with much of what Roosevelt says above, but the last sentence is something I have reservations about. I’ve bolded the pertinent part.  Obviously Roosevelt was more of a ‘civic nationalist’ and judging by what he says about the Americans and British ‘making Englishmen of many other  peoples‘ he believed in the melting pot, and in the limitless possibility of assimilating many disparate peoples. He may just have been using a little hyperbole when he says many other peoples were ‘made Englishmen‘ by assimilation. But whether or not he meant that phrase metaphorically, it’s been treated as truth by many people in the years since those words were written.

Oftentimes the civic nationalists in both the United States and in Britain have expressed the belief that if only, say, Moslems ‘assimilated’, learned good English, and ‘moderated’ their religious beliefs and cultures, they will be full members of their host countries. Is everyone assimilable, given the right instructions in how to be a ‘good citizen’ of America or of any Western country? It’s an article of faith in the religion that is civic nationalism, but there seems to be little evidence that it’s true.

One more thing I noticed about the quote from Roosevelt about what makes an ‘Anglo-American’: it seems that his views have become widely accepted in America now; everybody who is of northwestern European stock and who speaks English as their native language is now, for a lot of people, an ‘Anglo’ or ‘Anglo-American.’ Well, that’s very inclusive and all, but doesn’t that deprive those who are actually of English or British descent of their ethnic identity?

 

 

 

William Tyndale and his views on nation

From the Faith and Heritage blog, Adi writes of William Tyndale and his view on the English nation.

“Tyndale was also a nationalistic Englishman, having great love for his kin and country. When martyred, even though it took place in continental Europe, his final prayer was not for the world (or even Europe) to be saved, but instead he prayed for the repentance of his own people: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Today when the average Christian is taught to believe that nation and race are irrelevant to Christians, Tyndale’s ideas on the importance of nation and people could be seen as incongruous, when in fact they were probably not so unusual for his time.

Read the rest at Faith and Heritage.

‘Don’t say you are English’

The following appears on this website, credited as shown below, apparently anonymously written.

JUST DON’T SAY YOU’RE ENGLISH
(Found beside company photocopier)

Goodbye to my England – So long my old friend
Your days are now numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh, that’s just fine
But don’t say you’re English, that’s way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch,
You can say you are Russian, or maybe a Dane.
But don’t say you’re English, ever again

At Broadcasting House that word is taboo
In Brussels they’ve scrapped it, in Parliament too,
Even schools are affected, staff do as they’re told,
They mustn’t teach children about the England of old

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
Do the pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem or Mons
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons?

We are not Europeans how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea,
We’re the English from England, let’s all be proud-
Stand up and be counted –  shout it out loud!

Let’s tell our government – and Brussels too –
We’re proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue.
Fly the flag of St. George or the Union Jack.
Let the world know – WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK!

I have also found this poem somewhere else, credited to Terry Ogelthorpe. Whether the writer is anonymous or Terry Ogelthorpe,  it seems to represent a very real sentiment. We don’t hear or read much about English nationalism on this side of the Atlantic, so apparently the  unspoken rule against identifying as English has been pretty effective. In some cases it’s just ingrained habit, maybe, with most people accepting the common practice of using ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ interchangeably with ‘England’ and ‘English.’ But the terms are not the same, are they.

Here in the United States we have something of this ‘don’t say you are English’ habit, and a similar carelessness with using the terms ‘British’ and ‘English’. But for many Americans of English descent, we’ve got used to thinking of ourselves as ‘just Americans’, or identifying with our regional origin, as Southern people have traditionally done. Yet once upon a time many Southrons, if not most, explicitly spoke of their Anglo-Saxon origins.

Obviously, though, on both sides of the Atlantic, it just isn’t “in” or it simply isn’t “done” to openly say we are of English origin. And that’s more than a shame.

 

 

The Germans and the English: closely related?

The common wisdom is that the English (or more broadly speaking, the British) are very closely related, genetically as well as linguistically.  EvolutionistX examines the relationships amongst the various European ethnicities, with some interesting findings. In response to a question he compares German and Polish genetics, specifically, and then compares the various European peoples.

“Obviously German is here referring to one of the Germanic peoples who occupy the modern nation of Germany and speak a Germanic language. But as noted before, just because people speak a common language doesn’t necessarily mean they have a common genetic origin. Germans and English both speak Germanic languages , but Germans could easily share more DNA with their Slavic-language speaking neighbors in Poland than with the English.

According to Wikipedia, the modern Germanic peoples include Afrikaners, Austrians, Danes, Dutch, English, Flemish, Frisians, Germans, Icelanders, Lowland Scots, Norwegians, and Swedes.”

I’m no scholar on the subject of HBD, though I have a curiosity about it and an interest in it. But I admit I was surprised to read the last sentence in that first paragraph above — the statement that Germans might have closer genetic ties with the Polish people than with the English. This is because, just as I said, the popular belief is that the English and the Germans are very close cousins. I suppose we all tend to take that for granted, having heard it so often.

In discussions of history and politics on right-wing blogs, many people bitterly condemn the two world wars involving the English and the Germans, on the grounds that ‘it was cousin against cousin‘ or sometimes ‘brother against brother‘, with the implication that the two peoples should never have fought each other.

However history shows us that oftentimes more closely-related peoples are at odds with each other, rather than allies and good neighbors.

There’s a great deal more information in the article about the various European peoples, including some useful genetic maps. Of one of the maps, EvolutionistX says:

“Note, though, that this map has some amusing results; clearly it’s a more Nordic distribution than specifically German, with “Celtic” Ireland just as Nordic as much of England and Germany.”

That last point, about ‘Celtic’ Ireland being just as Nordic as much of England and Germany, is also counter to the popular beliefs, especially those of Americans of Scots or Irish descent, who remain adamant that their ancestors were Celts, not Nordic or Germanic. So much of the inter-group squabbling and grievance-nursing could be eliminated if only ethnic partisans would accept this information as true. Unfortunately people will often believe what they choose to believe and reject any information that challenges their belief system. Politics too often colors people’s openness to new information.

“In 2003 a paper was published by Christian Capelli and colleagues which supported, but modified, the conclusions of Weale and colleagues.[14] This paper, which sampled Great Britain and Ireland on a grid, found a smaller difference between Welsh and English samples, with a gradual decrease in Haplogroup I frequency moving westwards in southern Great Britain. The results suggested to the authors that Norwegian Vikings invaders had heavily influenced the northern area of the British Isles, but that both English and mainland Scottish samples all have German/Danish influence.”

Maybe, as I think I mentioned in an earlier post on this subject, there is a closer kinship amongst the various peoples of the British Isles than between the supposedly close kindred, the English and the Germans. And that seems only common sense, to me.

Is it just my perception, or have intra-European grudges and animosities increased somewhat in the last few decades? In the face of the common threat to all the European peoples, these kinds of rivalries and grievances should diminish. At the same time, though, I don’t think any kind of amalgamation of the various peoples should be the goal; each people is unique; all have their strengths and their weaknesses. Europeans are not all the same. And good fences make good neighbors.

Alliances, yes, but no forced unions, whether EU-style or other such pan-European schemes.

 

 

 

 

English dialect words in Virginia

As I’ve said, the English language in all its various dialects interests me, especially as it illustrates that aspect of our heritage from England. Yesterday I posted an excerpt from a book called The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, from 1899.

Here, the writer lists some examples of Wiltshire and Cornwall dialect words found in use in Virginia.

Wiltshire words in Virginia speech_wordbookofvirgin00gree_0013

Anyone familiar with the various Southern American dialects of English, (at least as they existed before all the demographic and cultural changes that have swept over the South) will recognize many of these usages. I can pick out several of them in the above excerpt. For instance, the word ‘yellow’ pronounced as ‘yalla.’ Granted, it was mostly rural and older folk who retained this into our era, but my grandparents and their generation spoke that way. Likewise, the pronunciation of the word ‘seven’ as something like ‘seb’m‘. It can’t have been uncommon in England, as I’ve heard it from older speakers in the UK, and they were educated speakers, by the way. Same with the word ‘eleven’ as ‘eleb’m‘, roughly.

Why do I bring up these quirks? I think it’s important to point them out, not just for curiosity’s sake, but because far too many Southron people have been persuaded that everything about the Southern American dialects represents ‘ignorance’ on the part of Southron folk. Many of these old expressions and pronunciations were not ‘ignorant’ or the result of a lack of education; they were simply hold-overs from the dialect(s) our ancestors spoke when they arrived from England 400+ years ago. Some of those usages have long since died out in the UK, as language change does happen, but that does not mean that the older usages that survived here were in error. They were simply archaic, from the viewpoint of our cousins back  in the mother country.

In the quote above, another odd pronunciation in Virginia (and in my Texas childhood) was the word ‘rinse’ pronounced as ‘rench.’ My mother, being from the North, disdained this kind of ‘mispronunciation,’ seeing it as backward. Sadly many Northern people believe that the Southron dialect is a sign of low intelligence. Maybe if such people recognized that the different usages are simply ‘old-fashioned’ usages, or dialect variances, they might not be so disdainful.

The second paragraph in the quote mentions the habit of dropping the final ‘g’ in words ending in ‘-ing’. In my experience this is not a Southernism but is widespread across the United States and Canada. It’s also heard on the other side of the Atlantic.  (I remember the carping American media raking Sarah Palin over the coals for “dropping her ‘g’s”, as if a large proportion of Americans don’t do the same thing, regardless of regional origin or level of education. Funny how snobbish the self-important ‘journalistic’ classes can be.)

Books have been written about the Southern American dialect, or dialects. I can’t do the subject justice here, but I will return to it at times. It’s important for us to know that so much of what we take for granted about our culture, including our language, did not originate here. It is part of our ‘old inheritance’, and knowing these things should enhance our sense of identity, and remind us of our origins in Britain.