MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Is There A Difference Between “British” & “English”?

Here in America (or “the colonies”, as our relatives across the pond once called it), it’s not out of the ordinary for folks to use the terms “British” & “English” interchangeably when talking about anything related to the empire that gave us such prized gems as William Shakespeare, The Mini (both Skirt & Car), and The Spice Girls. But do “British” & “English” really mean the same thing?

Actually, no…”British” & “English” do NOT mean the same thing…primarily because Britain & England are two different places.

You see, England is one of three countries on the island of Great Britain, alongside Scotland & Wales. In fact, the full title of The United Kingdom is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland”, and that makes it pretty clear which nations fall under the umbrella of “The UK” : England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the rest of the island of Ireland is its own independent nation, known as The Republic of Ireland.

Since England is part of Great Britain, everything “English” is technically also “British”. But not everything “British” is also “English”. You shouldn’t, for instance, call the Loch Ness Monster an “English” myth/monster/tourism ploy, since it arose out of Scotland. You could call it “Scottish” or “British”. Basically, only things from England are “English”, while anything from England, Scotland, or Wales is British.

Ireland…well, she’s a tad more complicated. Anyone from The Republic of Ireland would simply be referred to as “Irish”. Meanwhile, Northern Irish people qualify for both British AND Irish citizenship, so they might consider themselves “British” as well as “Irish”. Plus, since the United Kingdom doesn’t have its own adjective, “British” can also be understood to mean “of the United Kingdom” (and Northern Ireland is of the United Kingdom, though that isn’t always popular notion in Northern Ireland…so, maybe keep that in mind if you ever travel to the Emerald Isle).

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