Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Who are you calling English?

A year or so ago, I handed the wee Welsh nearly-new teacher at our college a copy of the unit guide for the bit of the course she was teaching.
"Let me know what you think needs changing", I said.
A few days later she thrust the guide back at me.
"I'm norr'avin' that!" she harumphed.
"You use the expression, 'stressing for England'. Some of us do come from other parts of the United Kingdom, y'know!"
And off she went with her mug of tea in hand, chuckling gleefully at my dismay at having been found out as a secret St George's flag tea-towel owner and therefore neo-Nazi skinhead football hooligan.

And I remembered that because rumbling away in the media of the other proud noble nations of the UK is the story of the Scottish councillor who has been fined £750 for a racially aggravated crime. Specifically, calling a Welsh man "boyo" in an argument. This story surfaced towards the end of August, but today's editorial comment in the Scottish paper The Herald is calling for a change in the law that allows this. The editorial line is that slurs based on matters of national identity is crossing the line between protecting people from racism and eroding free speech.

That's a serious philosophical and legal argument to be having over a matter of language use, yet you wouldn't know it from the London/England papers, most of which don't cover this story at all.

Check out the links. Where do you think the legal line should be drawn?

Vocabulary of racism

'If boyo is racist so is Jock'

And thanks to nic (see comments section below) for suggesting this link:

Police investigate anti-British e-mail


At 8:10 am, Blogger Rhys Wynne said...

I don't know in what context 'stressing for England' was used, but if you were refering to the UK as England then she probably had a point?

At 11:01 am, Blogger Nic Dafis said...

In Wales, using "Brit" inappropriatly can get you into all sorts of trouble.

At 11:48 am, Blogger suze said...

I think people should be careful about how they use language, and I do not like racism and think it fair enough to complain and maybe use the courts if the abuse is sustained, BUT I think anyone who thinks taking someone to court for calling them a name (any name, whatever it is about) needs to get a life.

At 1:58 pm, Blogger E-Julie said...

Rhys - in context, it was just a lame jokey football allusion. Instead of "playing football for England" it was "stressing for England". It was just staffroom banter with no offence given or taken!

At 10:09 am, Blogger Chorna said...

Although your focus here is the language barrier, I've always found this issue in particular delves right into the core of ideas of nationalism and identity. You wrote an article a few months back about how "Paki" was being reclaimed by Asians, as "Nigga/Negro" was taken back by Black African Americans.

The thing with language is (and I'm not sure if Law is quick enough to follow up on this), it changes with the people who use it.

Ok, vague point, over and out.


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