Alternative names for the British

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This article is about terms applied to people, some of which are controversial. For a discussion of the overlapping terms for states/countries/nations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, see British Isles (terminology).

Alternative names for the British (people from the United Kingdom) include nicknames and terms, including affectionate ones, neutral ones, and derogatory ones to describe the British people and more specifically English, Welsh, Scottish and some Northern Irish people.

Terms for the British in English[edit]

Brit[edit]

Brit is a commonly used term in the United States and elsewhere, simply as a shortened form of "British." It was considered offensive historically,[1] but has become somewhat more neutral over time, and is increasingly used by the British themselves in international contexts.

Britisher[edit]

An archaic form of "Briton," similar to "Brit", always much more used in North America than Britain itself, but even there largely outdated. The term was also used extensively in the British Raj and is still used extensively in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Brittunculi[edit]

In one of the Vindolanda tablets from Hadrian's Wall the pejorative Latin word Brittunculi (wretched little Britons) [2] is used – presumably by a Roman official – in a commentary on the natives' military tactics.

Hun[edit]

Hun, Huns or the Hun are used in and, particularly among Northern Irish Nationalist communities. Can refer to British people in general or English people specifically. Related to the Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) origins of the English nation; compare to the use of "the Hun" by the British in reference to the Germans during World War I.

Limey[edit]

The term is thought to have originated in the 1850s as "lime-juicer",[3] and was later shortened to "limey".[4] It was originally used as a derogatory word for sailors in the Royal Navy, because of the Royal Navy's practice since the beginning of the 19th century of adding lemon juice or lime juice to the sailors' daily ration of watered-down rum (known as grog), in order to prevent scurvy.[5][6]

Eventually the term lost its naval connection and was used about British people in general. In the 1880s, it was used to refer to British immigrants in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Although the term may have been used earlier in the U.S. Navy as a slang word for a British sailor or a British warship, such usage isn't documented until 1918. By 1925, its usage in American English had been extended to mean any Briton, and the expression was so commonly known that it was used in American newspaper headlines.

Pommy or Pom (Offensive)[edit]

The terms pommy, pommie and pom, in Australia and New Zealand usually denotes an English person (or, less commonly, people from other parts of the UK).[7] The Oxford Dictionary defines their use as "often derogatory" [8] but after complaints to the Australian Advertising Standards Board about five advertisements poking fun at "Poms",[9] the Board ruled (in 2006) that these words are offensive.[10] The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority made a similar ruling in 2010.

There are several folk etymologies for Pommy or Pom. The best-documented of these is that pommy originated as a contraction of "pomegranate".[11][12] According to this explanation, "pomegranate" was Australian rhyming slang for "immigrant" ("Jimmy Grant").[13] Usage of "pomegranate" for English people may have been strengthened by a belief in Australia that sunburn occurred more frequently among English immigrants, turning those with fair skin the colour of pomegranates.[14] Another explanation – now generally considered to be a false etymology – was that "pom" or "pommy" were derived from an acronym such as POM ("Prisoner of Millbank"), POME ("Prisoner of Mother England") or POHMS ("Prisoner Of Her Majesty's Service").[15] However, there is no evidence that such terms, or their acronyms, were used in Australia when "pom" and "pommy" entered use there.

Tommy[edit]

The name Tommy for any soldier in the British Army is particularly associated with World War I. The French and the British Commonwealth armies used the name "Tommy" for the British. "Tommy" is derived from the name "Tommy Atkins" which had been used as a generic name for a soldier for many years (and had been used as an example name on British Army registration forms). The precise origin is the subject of some debate, but it is known to have been used as early as 1743. Rudyard Kipling published the poem "Tommy" (part of the Barrack Room Ballads) in 1892 and in 1893 the music hall song "Private Tommy Atkins" was published with words by Henry Hamilton and music by S. Potter. In 1898 William McGonagall wrote "Lines in Praise of Tommy Atkins".

The paybooks issued to all British soldiers of World War I used the name "Tommy Atkins" to illustrate how they should be filled in.

Pākehā[edit]

"Pākehā" is a Māori language term for New Zealanders who are "of European descent"; it is currently in use in New Zealand English to refer to European-descended New Zealanders, most of whom are of British ancestry.[16]

In languages other than English[edit]

Europe[edit]

In Polish a common formal term to describe an Englishman is Anglik, derived from the Polish word for England, Anglia, with the word Brytyjczyk meaning Briton, from the Polish name for Great Britain, Wielka Brytania. Derogatory terms coined in recent years are Angol and Brytol respectively; however, due to negative connotations they are not used in formal writing or by the media.

In the Czech Republic the term Anglán is often used, which has the same roots as the Polish Anglik- the Czechs call England Anglie. This word is neither positive nor negative. However, unlike the formal Angličan, it is not used by the press because of its informality.

In Hungary the English people are called "angol" or in plural "angolok". England is called "Anglia". British people in general are called "brit" or in plural "brittek" but the term is less widespread. Great Britain is called "Nagy-Britannia" but the United Kingdom is called "Egyesült Királyság".

A pejorative German name for the British is Inselaffe, which means 'island ape' or 'island monkey'.[17][18]

Rosbif/Rosbeef/Bife[edit]

Several European slang terms for the English are apparently derived from the association of the English (and the British more generally) with eating roast beef.

The original explanation of the French term rosbif is that it referred to the English tradition of cooking roast beef,[19] and especially to the song The Roast Beef of Old England.[20] Interestingly, it is reputed that Rosbeauf is from the Middle Ages when the King of France sent his Court Chefs to England to learn how to 'roast the beef', as the English were the experts. Hence, 'les rosbif'.

In Portugal, the term bife (literally meaning steak, but sounding like beef) is used as a slang term to refer to the English.[21] There is a feminine form, bifa, mainly used to refer to English female tourists[citation needed].

Africa[edit]

Afrikaans speakers may use the term rooinek (literally "red neck", another reference to sunburning) in reference to the British, or to White South Africans of British descent.[22] During the Second Boer War, the British became known as khakis, in reference to the colour of their uniforms – which, by then, was no longer the red coats due to them being unsuitable to the South African climate.[23][24]

Another common term used by Afrikaners to describe the British in South Africa is soutie or soutpiel, meaning "salty" or "salty penis" respectively. The meaning behind this is that they have one foot in Britain and one foot in South Africa, leaving their penis to hang in the salty sea water.[25]

In the East African Bantu languages mzungu has come to mean any white European but more often than not especially the British or English due to their colonial past in the region.

South Asia[edit]

In Nepal, the British are often referred to as Kuires/Khaires which means people of white or pale colour. It is also used in general for any European person with white skin.

Angrez, Angrej, Ingraj, Anggrit are versions of French word Anglais meaning Englishman.[citation needed]

Ingraj is used in Maharashtra (Marathi) and West Bengal (Bengali) region of India to refer to British people.[26]

Among South Asians, Angrez has the same meaning, although its more specific meaning is Englishman, with Angrezan for an English woman. This is mostly seen as an ethnic, rather than a territorial, term and applied specifically for people of Anglo-Saxon origin. So people of South Asian origin living in England do not usually refer to themselves as Angrez or Angrezan. Replacing the z with j and j with z is common practice especially amongst people from India, particularly Indian Punjab; hence it would be "Angrej" (masculine) and "Angrejan" (female). The adjective Gora (Gori for females) is also commonly used amongst South Asians and South Asian British to refer to white Britons, although the term literally translates to "fair-skinned one", and thus could and is applied to individuals of any ethnicity with a fair complexion including south Asians themselves. The adjective has also been used as a noun to describe white people – hence its potential as a racial slur.[citation needed]

Indian Punjabis use the term Englandi for any other citizen of England, including Asian British people, regardless of that person's ancestral ethnicity.[citation needed]

Malayalis of Kerala use the term Sayyip to refer to a male westerner. The feminine equivalent is Madaamma.[citation needed]

In Assam (which became part of British India in 1828), the British are called Boga Bongal (literally meaning White Foreigners or White Intruders). Bongal was a derogatory word for foreigners and invaders in Assam under Ahom rule and it still is used.

In Tamil Nadu the Tamil word "Vellaikaaran" means White man usually referring British rulers during freedom struggles in the 18th to 19th century where prominent freedom fighters like 'Kappalottiya Tamilian' V.O.Chidambaranar, Subramanya Bharathi, Subramanya Siva, Kamarajar and Veerapaandi Kattabomman existed. It's used in present day to refer any one White with European origin where still many rural Tamil villagers believe that all Europeans are English. "Vellaikaari" means white woman and "Vellaikaarargal" or "Vellaiyargal" is the plural form meaning white people.

"Suddo", "Ingrisikarayo" are Sri Lankan, Sinhalese names for British and other western white skinned people.[citation needed]

South-East Asia[edit]

In Malaysia, one common Malay equivalent is Mat Salleh. The term may have originated from the general depiction of British colonial sailors who were often drunk (Mad Sailors); due to the locals' unfamiliarity with English, it became corrupted as mat salleh (Mat and Salleh are both typical Malay names). Another possible origin of the phrase is the Mat Salleh Rebellion, led by North Borneo chief Mat Salleh, against the British North Borneo Company during the late-19th century. Another alternative to mat salleh is orang putih (literally "white people" in Malay) or its shortened rural form, omputih. In ancient Malaccan times, the term orang deringgi was also used.

In Thai, the word anggrit (อังกฤษ) is used to described both the English in particular, and the British in general. In everyday speech the word Farang (ฝรั่ง) is usually used to describe British people as well as other light-skinned Europeans. Some foreigners regard this word as racist. In journalism, the expression puu dee (ผู้ดี) meaning "nobleman" is sometimes used to denote "English".[citation needed]

East Asia[edit]

The following terms are used to mean "Britain" or "British" and use etymologies mostly unrelated to "Britain":

These terms are also used to refer to England in unofficial contexts. More formal names also exist, such as the Chinese 聯合王國 Liánhéwángguó and Japanese 連合王国 Rengōōkoku literally meaning "United Kingdom". Separate words exist in all of these languages for each of the constituent parts of the UK, including England, although, as elsewhere, there is little awareness of correct usage. The Chinese Dàbùlièdiān (Hanzi: 大不列颠) is used for historical purposes to mean "Great Britain." The first character means "Great" and the other three have unrelated meanings, having been selected for the sound instead of meaning.

The Chinese Yīngguó and the Japanese Eikoku are written identically as 英国, where the first character 英 means "outstanding," "excellence," or "flower," and the second character 国 means "country," "nation," or "kingdom." Korean 영국 also means "glorious" (영 'yeong') and nation (국 'guk'). A British person is 영국 사람 'yeongguk saram', literally meaning Britain Person.

In Japanese, the term Igirisu (Katakana: イギリス) is used interchangeably with Eikoku, but is considered slightly more foreign because it comes from the Portuguese word Inglês (English) – it should be noted that, despite this origin, Igirisu refers to the United Kingdom as a whole, and not specifically to England, which is Ingurando (Katakana: イングランド).

Names for the peoples of the British Isles[edit]

Languages that do not distinguish "English" from "British"[edit]

In many languages, the equivalent terms for 'English' and 'England' are often used interchangeably with 'British' and 'Britain', and this is also relatively common in many non-British varieties of English (and far from unknown in British English itself).[citation needed]

In Turkish 'İngiltere' is used for both Britain and England, despite there being a separate word for Britain, 'Britanya'. Welsh people in particular are very often referred to in French as 'Anglais' rather than 'Gallois', in Russian as 'англичанин' Angličanin, and so on.[citation needed]

The same occurs rather less frequently in the case of individuals from Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, even those countries may still sometimes be considered to form part of Angleterre or the equivalent. In French, the word britannique ('British') is restricted to more official contexts and tends to be used for governments rather than for individuals.[citation needed]

In Spain the distinction between the English, Scots, Welsh and their mother countries is, as in Hispanic America, almost completely non-existent. This is reflected in the media where the British government, the army, etc., are all referred to as inglés (English).[citation needed]

Alternative names for the English[edit]

  • Sassenach – used to describe the English, by their immediate Gaelic-speaking neighbours: the Scots, the Irish and the Manx. The term is derived from the Gaelic word Sasanach (alt. Sasannach), in older literature Sacsannach / Sagsananch), from the Old English term "Seaxon~Saxon" "Saxon".
  • The Cornish word for an Englishman is "Sows", and the Cornish word for the English language is "Sowsnek". These are also from the Old English term "Seaxon~Saxon" "Saxon".
  • In Welsh, Saeson (singular: Sais) – from the Latin Saxones / Saxo and a reference, as in other Celtic tongues, to the Saxons – means English people (or sometimes simply English-speakers).
  • White settlers is a facetious name given to English commuters who choose to live north of the border, especially in the Lothians.

Alternative names for Scottish[edit]

Alternative names for Welsh[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Etymology Online "Brit"". 
  2. ^ "Vindolanda Tablet 164 Leaf No. 1 (front)". Vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 24 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  3. ^ "lime–juic·er". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  4. ^ name=Dictionary>"limey". Dictionary.com:. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionaries: Limey Retrieved 2011-07-06
  6. ^ "Why are British people called "limeys"?". Ask Yahoo!. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  7. ^ Merv Webster (2006). "It's no excuse I fear". Keeping the culture. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  8. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Pommy
  9. ^ "Pom ruled offensive". The Sunday Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 20 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "'Pommy git' okay, BSA rules – National – NZ Herald News". Nzherald.co.nz. 6 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  11. ^ http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/287200.html
  12. ^ http://www.allwords.com/word-pom.html
  13. ^ Tom McArthur (ed.), 1992, The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p384.
  14. ^ Boycott, Geoffrey (10 January 2008). "Cricket must crack down on the abuse – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Snopes.com 'Etymology of Pommy'". 
  16. ^ http://kupu.maori.nz/ShowKupu.aspx?kupu=545.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "dict.cc "Inselaffe"". 
  18. ^ Brown, Jonathan (28 September 2006). "Terms of abuse and affection: Do they mean us? They surely do!". The Independent (London: Independent Digital News and Media Limited). Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  19. ^ "Wiktionary "Rosbif"". 
  20. ^ "BBC – Why do the French call the British 'the roast beefs'?". BBC News. 3 April 2003. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  21. ^ "Lisbonblog "Bife"". 
  22. ^ Donald G. McNeil Jr (11 October 1998). "Like Politics, All Political Correctness Is Local". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. 
  23. ^ "British Military Terms and Soldier Slang". 
  24. ^ "List of South African Slang Words". 
  25. ^ "dictionary.com "soutpiel"". 
  26. ^ Potdar, Datto Waman (1922). Marathe Va Ingraj. Pune.