Talk:Terminology of the British Isles/Archive 5

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What is the basis of this statement?

Quote from article;

The second largest island in the archipelago is Ireland. That Ireland is a part of the geographical "British Isles" in no way implies that all of the island is politically British.

Does someone think that it is? This is yet another sop to the POV pushers who don't like the term British Isles. Arcturus 17:40, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

"Does someone think that it is?" - From an Online Encyclopaedia I just found;
"Hostility to the term British Isles has often been caused by its misinterpretation; this was exemplified by an embarrassing and controversial faux pas by the then American First Lady Nancy Reagan during an Irish visit. The confusion caused by the term was also highlighted during a stop-over visit to the Republic of Ireland by then Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, when he indicated that he presumed Ireland's head of state was Queen Elizabeth II, given that she was the British Queen and his officials said that Ireland was a part of the British Isles." -[1]
I'll look for a primary source if further confirmation is needed --Neo 18:14, 8 October 2006 (UTC)
Neo, the source looks like it's a Wikipedia mirror, perhaps using a previous version of the BI article. I still wonder whether the statement is necessary in the article. Arcturus 18:37, 8 October 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with the 'probably a Wikipedia Mirror' thing; however, returning to the point I think that a statement explictely stating that Ireland (the state) is independent of the United Kingdom does no harm, and may help clarify any queries or doubts in people's minds. As someone who appears to have spent some time on Wikipedia I'm sure I don't need to say Be Bold and edit it if you can think of a better formulation. --Neo 20:11, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Faroe Islands article claims that it is in the British Isles

Is that correct or not. If not, then we must correct the Faore Isles article. Chivista 18:05, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

I've reverted that as well. It is all about an argument going on at Talk:British Isles and added to prove a point. josh (talk) 18:13, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
That's not very nice; it misled me for no reason... because they are almost close enough and in the old days of Beowulf the Danes did invade Britain so I thought that the Faroe Isle claim was correct. Chivista 18:17, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
I would be perfectly happy to accept the Faeroes as part of the British Isles - both geographically and, as you say, culturally. They are, however, situated on their own fragment of continental shelf that is not joined to that on which the British Isles are situated - but this fact cannot have been known to the ancients. TharkunColl 19:05, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Manx

Citations were given for "Western European Islands" being terms used in Irish (Oileáin Iarthair Eorpa, Dinneen 1927, s.v. oileán 'island') and Manx (apparently Ellanyn Sheear ny hOarpey, Fargher 1979). I was noting (with footnotes) that "British Isles" occurs in Irish (Oileáin Bhreatanacha, Dunne & Ó Raithbheartaigh 1937) and Manx (Ny hEllanyn Goaldagh, Fargher 1979, s.v. British-Isles; basically the Manx called them all "foreign islands"). I do not find Ellanyn Sheear ny hOarpey in Fargher. Under Western Isles the term Ellanyn Sheear ny h-Albey occurs, obviously referring to Scotland's Hebrides. Further, 'Europe' is Europey in Fargher. What gives? POV mendacity? -- Evertype· 18:19, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

What are you trying to prove? That the term "British Isles" is so loved by the Irish Government that they incessantly refer to "Britain and Ireland" as Oileáin Bhriotanacha. There is no doubt about the fact that "British Isles" does translate into the Irish language, but to go on and quote government sources where it was used in 1937 when Ireland was part of the British Commonwealth is mear pov, and not apt for a worthy encyclopedia article. The usual term is Oileáin Iarthair Eorpa, or the West European Isles. MelForbes 19:30, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
Hold your POV horses, MelForbes. I am not trying to prove anything. I am showing attested use of a particular term in Irish. I have a NPOV about this. I am not offended by the use of "British Isles" to refer to a Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the thousands of little Islands in the area. Nor do I insist that people use the term. As a lexicographer, however, I have simply shown that Oileáin Bhriotanacha is a term which has been used in Irish. That's simply a fact, found in a book on my shelf (I have lots of maps and atlases). "Not apt for a worthy encyclopaedia article" is seriously POV. Why do I think so? For the same reason that I am unhappy that someone who edited this page suggested that Ellanyn Sheear na hOarpey is a Manx term from Fargher, which I have been unable to find in that book, while the term Ny hEllanyn Goaldagh which means 'British Isles' is attested in that book. Ths seems to me to be a POV revisionism on the part of a Wikipedian. This article is about usage. Facts are not to be suppressed. -- Evertype· 20:04, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
You said: "The usual term is Oileáin Iarthair Eorpa, or the West European Isles." An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? Tá sí agamsa agus níor chualas duine ar bith ag úsáid an téarma sin, cé go bhfuil fáil air i bhfoclóir an Duinníneach. Got proof that it is usual? (And it may very well be usual, but that does not mean that a term for 'British Isles' is not attested in Irish, in use, one might think, by people who were quite well aware of what it did and did not imply. -- Evertype· 20:08, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
A Cara, tá an Gaeilge agamsa freisin. Slainte chugat. MelForbes 21:26, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
"A chara, tá an Ghaeilge agamsa freisin." Soraidh. -- Evertype· 22:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Sadly, to a certain breed of Irish Nationalist on wikipedia, any concession to use of the geographical term "British Isles" to include the island of Ireland is always fought tooth and nail. Tedious to those of us who prefer neutral facts, but sadly a site like wikipedia attracts disproportionate numbers of such folk. It's mentalities like this which are a large part of the reason why a certain junket was taking place in St Andrews the past few days...--feline1 20:25, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Sadly, to a certain breed of Irish Nationalist on Wikipedia. Unquote. The line says much more about you than it says about me. My record on NPOV at WP is exemplary. My aim is for a true and honest article, that's totally NPOV.
Eh? Your edit (mentioned above) turned an assertion of attestation into an un-supported claim about what was the "most used" term in Irish. It seems to me that this was serving a POV. -- Evertype· 22:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
My spat with Evertype, who incidentally offended me in a similar style to your own, was based on my proposal of stating that the term "British Isles" did not always include Ireland. You seem to have a prejudice problem, and you have made erroneous assumptions about my edits. MelForbes 20:52, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
I offended you in what way? I did not make edits about your suggestion that "British Isles" "did not always include" Ireland. -- Evertype· 22:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
Actually I was speaking generally, not specifically about you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Strasbourg to protest about the continued oppressive use of the term "Irish Sea" by the Republic of Ireland.--feline1 21:21, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
I am sure that's a joke. The British called it the Irish sea. Better take it up with HRH or TB. Actually the analogy is lame. I notice that the English call La Manche the English Channel, and due respect is given on the page to the different terms. That's the way it should be on WP. MelForbes 21:35, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
Um, the "Irish Sea" has not always been called the "Irish Sea" by everyone. I think in Scottish Gaelic it is either the "British Sea" or the "Welsh Sea" (and that distiinction may be problemetic in Scottish Gaelic). -- Evertype· 22:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Query

"The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state occupying much of the British Isles. Often shortened to 'United Kingdom', 'UK' or Britain." Is that last part incorrect, or is it just me? If you're talking about the collective including N. Ireland nobody refers to it as Britain, do they? DavyJonesLocker 14:21, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Yes they do. And the nationality of people born in NornIrond is generally spoken of as "British" (ie legally they are "British Citizens")--feline1 16:48, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Only some people do. Many people in Northern Ireland take out Irish passports, and they are Irish. MelForbes 18:18, 20 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes thanks for that Mel, well you hurry off now and count them all and come back and tell us which one is in the majority, and then we can all have a huge sectarian edit war about it, yes? thanks.--feline1 14:30, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

Definition of British Isles is Controversial

It is suggested (again) that the controversy in Ireland surrounding the use of the term British Isles should be included up front because it is the definition that is controversial. I do not believe that this is the case: There is no dispute over the meaning of the term - it means the archipelago off the north west of Europe (indeed it is the name of that archpelago). Now although to most of the english speaking world this is an entirely neutral name, some in Ireland - for reasons that are understood - would want to change the name. This should, of course, be discussed. However, this is no part of the definition and including the statement in the introduction gives quite the wrong emphasis. Mucky Duck 09:11, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

You're on a hiding to nothing, Mucky Duck. The Irish Nationalist communitay on wikipedia will never stand for such an approach.--feline1 10:23, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, in the absence of any justification for it I'll give it a couple more days and then restore the neutral version. Mucky Duck 08:12, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
As the controversy is mentioned later in the article could we possibly put a subdued reference to it along the lines of:
  • British Isles consists of Great Britain, Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands. (NB - this term can be controversial - see [revelant section] for more details).
Would this satisfy both sides, or just antagonise both? --Neo 13:56, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, no. That doesn't really answer the question. In fact because it doesn't mention the very limited sense in which the term is controversial it's somewhat worse than the current wording which is not incorrect. The point is that it doesn't belong in the definition because that overstresses it - to the vast majority of the world there is nothing controversial about the term at all. Putting it up front it inroduces a POV spin. Mucky Duck 07:32, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
Careful now, Mucky Duck! You'll be denying the potato famine next ;-) --feline1 10:52, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
Besides, the comment does nothing more than point out the fact that the term is sometimes considered offensive in one of the two main places covered by the generally accepted definition. That isn't POV, it's fact - however much some people like to deny it. Personally, I would disagree with Mucky Duck that "There is no dispute over the meaning of the term", but that might be POV. Meantime, the term "The British Isles" is widely used and widely recognised, and that's a fact too. Previous to the additional note in the definition the only reference to the "controvery" was in paragraph 6, a strange approach in a page that is supposed to clarify the terminology and its use....especially since the page on "The British Isles" refers to the controversy above the article and sends people to the terminology page for clarification. --hughsheehy 12:09, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
It's a "fact" that various people have *decided* to find the term offensive. A term cannot be offensive in of itself, it's merely a word. Humans have to find the offence. The term was not invented to offend.--feline1 13:16, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
And as I pointed out on the first day to Mucky Duck, there are many words where exactly the same *decision* has happened. If you assert that a term cannot be offensive of itself I suggest you wander around any of a dozen major US cities using the term "Nigger". You might find that many people *decide* to take offense and I suggest that your argument is invalid and would be dangerous to test. While I would not class "The British Isles" and "Nigger" in the same universe of offensiveness, both terms have origins in classical times, both have long history where they were entirely uncontroversial and yet both are currently less acceptable than they used to be - at least in some places and contexts. Again, that is not POV, it is fact. --hughsheehy 14:35, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, this is true. However "nigger" is almost universally used as a pejorative term, (or a reclaimed ironically-self-impowering-word amoungst the niggaz, bitches and hoes of black urban america :) ... wheras "British Isles" is generally still used by everyone still as a neutral geographical term, NOT as a pejorative. It is only Irish Nationalists who object to it on political grounds. So it is not quite the same kind of thing as "nigger".--feline1 15:23, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
This is not a very good analogy. The term nigger is a derogatory word to describe a black person. The term British Isles is the name of the archpelago that includes the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. It is entirely different. With regard to whether the statement is factual or not I don't dispute it and although there is some synthetic offense taken for political reasons in this area I am quite willing to accept good faith here. The point is though that placing this in the "simple explanation" puts a strong Irish Republican POV spin on it. A single sentence here cannot do the controversy justice and it should be placed where it belongs in the section on the problems surrounding the terms (which could certainly be improved, by the way). This is not a "strange approach". There is in Ireland a movement to get the name changed but other than to report it Wikipedia is not the place for this campaign. Mucky Duck 10:06, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
Actually it's probably quite a good analogy. Many dictionaries (and Wikipedia) give a straightforward definition of the meaning of words like "Nigger" and insert an additional note to say something like "usually offensive" (Webster) or "offensive in most social contexts" (Wikipedia). The recent addition to this page does the same thing, leaving the definition of British Isles untouched and adding the note "sometimes offensive". Rather than restricting the comment to a cryptic few words as would be common in dictionary contexts, the comment is slightly more expansive - as befits Wikipedia's nature. Debates on whether or not the term should be offensive to some people are almost unavoidably POV. The fact is that it is. --hughsheehy 14:50, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
"Rather than restricting the comment to a cryptic few words as would be common in dictionary contexts, the comment is slightly more expansive". This is exactly the point. The complexity of this requires much more than a cryptic few words. There is room to be slightly (indeed considerably) more expansive - but not here where it just results in POV spin. It is far from usually offensive (even in Ireland) - in fact it is nearly always inoffensive. What's more it is the only universally recognised name for the archipelago. There is need for a section detailing why some want it changed but that needs more than this in the simple explanation can possibly give. Since you've introduced it, by the way, unlike "nigger" Webster does not say "British Isles" is offensive. Mucky Duck 16:27, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
Again, the comment does not say that is is "usually" offensive, it says it is "sometimes" offensive. That's accurate and factual. I suspect that an assertion that it is "nearly always inoffensive" is impossible to support with data. Even taking fantastically unscientific sources like Kevin Myers' and polls on www.boards.ie (where the ratio of answers to questions like "Do you recognise the term 'The British Isles' when used to include Ireland" are approx 60% No, <30% Yes, and the remainder not caring) the evidence from there and from the sheer persistence of the debate on WP indicates that the term is at least "sometimes" offensive. If that fact is accepted then the question is whether that should be buried in paragraph 6 or mentioned in the beginning (with the additional discussion later). Conventional treatment would put a mention at the beginning and a fuller treatment elsewhere. In that way the facts can be recognised without getting into discussions on the definition of the term or POV discussions on why it is "sometimes" offensive or whether it should be replaced and if so, with that. Again, all those discussions are almost unaviodably POV and (IMHO) probably belong on webforums and not on WP. The current fact is that it is at least "sometimes" offensive. As for Webster, I was not using it for reference on content, but on style and treatment. If you want a source on content that indicates that "The British Isles" does not have a universally agreed definition, please look at the BBC, which sometimes excludes the area of the Republic of Ireland from "British Isles" topics and sometomes treats "The British Isles" and the UK as coterminous - thus excluding most of Ireland. While that usage would lead to an awkward definition of "The British Isles" if I'm sure of one thing in life it is that the BBC is not an Irish Nationalist media company and is not part of any "movement to get the name changed" - as Mucky Duck would seem to suspect exists.--hughsheehy 17:50, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
Are you deliberately misrepresenting what I have said? As I have explained there is nothing untrue about the comment you put in there - the problem is where it is as a part of the definition and its inevitably very limited coverage of the issue. Emphasisng the existence of a minority POV with so much prominence in itself causes POV problems. Mucky Duck 19:10, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
<reduce indent> Mucky Duck, I was not aware of any misrepresentation. Meantime, a browse of the BBC, The Times, and some other major media seems to show that the term "The British Isles" is NOT a term with a universally accepted meaning or definition. This raise the thought that the definition section, if not the whole article, may need to be updated to reflect current major media useage instead of arguing over what may or may not be "minority POV". The BBC and The Times variously use "The British Isles" to mean all of Great Britain and Ireland, or just to cover The United Kingdom, or to cover only Great Britain and its smaller outlying islands but excluding (all) of Ireland - using terms as varied as "The British Isles and Ireland", "Britain and Ireland", etc. (Google or the sites´ own search tools will easily demonstrate this.)
In the interim, if we accept that the term does cause offense to an appreciable number of people (mostly in Ireland) and if (as far as I can see) WP and other reference sources generally reflect potential offense in or near the definition of terms, the question remains "what should this article show?". The recent suggestion seems neutral, accurate and even potentially helpful for people likely to visit Ireland. If nothing else, can we please move away from the apparent situation now where any suggestion that "The British Isles" is anything other than a neutral and univerally accepted geographical term is greeted with accusations of trying to push Irish Nationalist or Republican POV or participating in "movements". As far as I can see, this kind of view has been put by Mucky Duck and feline and it does not seem useful. --hughsheehy 01:00, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
Well. If this statement is to remain then it needs to be expanded and improved to reduce the degree of POV spin. At the very least it needs to explain: That the term is not generally considered offensive, and is rarely if ever meant offensively; That it is the only generally accepted name for the archipelago and in no way implies that Britain has any claim over Irish territory; And given your points above that it has been used incorrectly to mean the British Islands. It's going to drift some way from being a simple explanation but would at least have the benefit of be neutrality. Mucky Duck 09:13, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
Mucky Duck persists in saying that the recent addition is POV spin, but not why. The statement was intended to be (and seems to me to actually be) neutral, factual and about as short as reasonable. Since it already specifies that the term is only "sometimes" offensive and gives some guidance on when, it already addresses the concerns raised above. Again, I cannot see the POV content and since the assertion that there is a lack of neutrality is unsupported it is difficult to see what to change. If we add all the extra stuff about "The British Isles" being the only generally accepted name and all the stuff about there being no claim to territory etc.,etc.,etc then we might as well move the whole controversy section into the definition, which seems counterproductive. Besides, if we do that then the BBC and The Times and the fact that contemporary usage in major (British) media apparently contradicts the assertion that there is a generally accepted definition all becomes entirely relevant and then we are back to square one. --hughsheehy 12:00, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
"Why" is because it only states one side of the equation.
"If we add all the extra stuff about "The British Isles" being the only generally accepted name and all the stuff about there being no claim to territory etc.,etc.,etc then we might as well move the whole controversy section into the definition, which seems counterproductive" - Exactly! That is what I have been saying. Only one aspect of the "controversy" is there at present and this creates a biased view. Ideally it should be left to the section where there is space to discuss it properly, but if it must be here then all aspects must be covered. Mucky Duck 15:08, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
Again Mucky Duck persists in saying that the recent addition is POV spin, but not why or which other POV should be incorporated to ensure NPOV. Since I believe that the addition is NPOV I fail to see what to change. Again, the statement was intended to be (and seems to me and apparently to dave souza (see below) to actually be) neutral, factual and about as short as reasonable so that it can complement the definition without overwhelming it. It is completely unclear where the addition introduces any bias and Mucky Duck is not pointing out where, simply reiterating unsupported accusations of POV. Meantime, I suggest that modern usage indicates that there is significant confusion (note I say confusion and not dispute) over the meaning of the term "The British Isles" and a treatment of actual usage seems important on a page that discusses terminology. Right now I don´t know where that should best be placed, so I am suggesting an option at the top of the talk page. --hughsheehy 15:35, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

<reduce indent> Point of fact, hughsheehy: the page on "The British Isles" refers to the controversy above the article and sends people to a British Isles#Terminology section specially written to justify the controversy: that section has a "main article" link to this terminology page for clarification, which is a bit confusing. Think I'll try some changes to that page to clarify things. The current bracketed statement in the lede to this page "(Note that this terminology is sometimes considered obsolete or even offensive in Ireland if it is used to include Ireland.)" looks good to me: it doesn't suggest any dispute over the meaning of the term, though the "used to include Ireland" part is rife with ambiguities. ...dave souza, talk 15:38, 30 October 2006 (UTC)


Dave/Feline, I am trying to keep POV out of the article and my input as much as I can. Still, I come back to the simple fact that the term is not generally - or at least not universally - accepted as a neutral geographical term and this fact is of fundamental importance in laying out a definition. The Irish govt doesn't use the term, Irish schoolbooks (both past, present and future) often don't use the term and it can and does raise emotions in many people if it is used to include Ireland. This is true, whichever POV you have.
My best guess (if you will permit me to veer into POV in this discussion area) on why this is so is simple. I suspect it's because the term "The British Isles" is explicitly ethnic in its origins and however the ethnic balance has changed over the millenia it can never be a neutral geographical term in the same way as it would be if it was "The Rainy Isles" or "The Green Islands" or something like that. As currently structured the term unavoidably implies that the islands are either ethnically or politically "British" (even if the meaning of "British" then and "British" now are ethnically and politically different and even if it's not easy to assert that there is a clear ethnic dividing line between Irish and British now or then). The simple fact is that the implication is practically guaranteed to cause either offense or accusations of historical anachronism for many people in Ireland. On the point dave souza raises - basically re the use of "Ireland" in that context - it seems difficult to find a better solution. The island of Ireland contains both Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and The Republic of Ireland. However, since the two parts of the island also contain almost all the people likely to take offense at the term "The British Isles" it seems likely that the word "Ireland" is accurate enough and not necessarily political. Just on my own experience, I don't know anyone in Britain, not even avid Glasgow Celtic fans, that react the same way. I may be wrong, but IMHO that's why "Ireland" may be as good as anything else in that specific context. Sorry for writing so much...I blame Mark Twain. --hughsheehy 17:33, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
None of this would matter if the Irish could come up with a decent replacement name. But they've singularly failed to do this. Until they come up with something catchy, people will keep saying "British Isles" rather than "Islands of the North Atlantic" etc.


Hmmm...I´m afraid that the tone of feline´s last unsigned comment and use of phrases like "the Irish" sounds like we´re verging on ad hominem arguments next. I hope I´m wrong. Meantime, I don´t doubt that "The British Isles" has lots of life in in yet and will potentially never be replaced - at least in British English. --hughsheehy 23:33, 30 October 2006 (UTC)



Ok, Mucky Duck has had a go at the recent addition and AnonMoose made a reasonable go at tidying up the language. However, the newest modifictation is (IMHO) truly terrible. It´s fantastically long, demonstrably POV and is become practically an apologia of the definition within the definition itself. Mucky complained that the addition in the intro was POV, but now the original added text has been modified to make it less accurate and far more controversial. Let me point out where the difficulties are, putting my objections in italics within the paragraph.

British Isles consist of Great Britain, Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands. (In no way does this term imply that the UK owns or has any claim over any territory of the Irish state (Actually, part of the problem with the term is that it almost certainly does imply something very much like that. There is occasionally passionate disagreement over whether it should, but there is a widespread perception that it does which - where implication is concerned - essentially means that it does. In fact, it´s that very implication that upsets some people. Saying that it doesn´t imply something without having some way of showing that (which is difficult when implication can be such a slippery concept) is just POV.).

Also, although this term is the only current commonly-used name for the achipelago (it´s not the only commonly-used term, even if it is almost certainly the most commonly-used term and is certainly the traditional and most known definition. If nothing else, the examples I gave above show that the definition from usage is anything but certain and other terms are used in major media. Without substantiating that it is the only name, or without defining the meaning of "commonly-used", we´re straight into POV.), and is rarely if ever used with offensive intentions (Again, terms like "rarely if ever" are vague and POV. I have seen the term used with deliberate provacative intent and while I can entirely accept that it is rarely if ever done, I don´t know how anyone could substantiate this POV. It would be equally possible, but equally POV to assert that its use is almost always used with offensive intentions if used to include Ireland, since it is recognised that there are people who are likely to be offended.), it is sometimes considered obsolete or even offensive in Ireland. (Perhaps an area of discussion here, but I don´t know anyone who objects to the term "The British Isles" who objects to the term "The British Isles and Ireland", indicating that if the term "The British Isles" is sometimes objectionable to people - it is only objectionable to those people if it is meant to include Ireland, which point has just been deleted from the intro..)

So, Mucky Duck´s modification seems to be a badly done addition, with poor logic and despite AnonMoose cleaning up the grammar and flow it is still POV to the core. There is nothing in the text that is verifiable and it just messes up the whole thing. I hesitate to say it but Mucky Duck seems to have an agenda and not to be interested in NPOV.

Finally, here´s a suggestion that is in line with the original addition to the intro and tries to be entirely NPOV. It also tries hard to be short, which isn´t easy, even if it isn´t as short as the original and I don´t believe it´s as good. How about "Note that some people in Ireland consider this terminology to be anachronistic if it is used to include Ireland and some may take offense." That takes the "blame" off the term - which seems to be part of Mucky Duck´s problem. If there isn´t a suitable shortening of the current intro I´ll put this in place instead. --hughsheehy 23:33, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I've avoided this area of talk up till now because, quite frankly, I don't believe that there are any editors here who ARE attempting to game the system or put in a non-neutral point of view, and I just couldn't be bothered with all the bitchy commenting. However - and I'm not necessairily agreeing with anyone in general on the issues - that new intro is very poorly written. See WP:LEAD. This is meant to be a concise and punch summary. Say all that stuff in the body of the article - its important that we do - but that intro is not hte solution. --Robdurbar 08:53, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree (although thanks to AnonMoose for improving it). I do not believe that this belongs in the intro at all since I don't believe that it can be kept acceptably short and cover the issue adequately. The problem is that if it has to be there it must be balanced. By pushing it into the defintion without other views the original gives the impression that there is a general problem with the term: That is untrue. The current tries to cover all the angles but just can't get that into an acceptably concise and punchy summary and I agree it inevitably fails.
As I have said, the issue needs to be covered; but properly.
I was not aware that I did any "bitchy commenting". It was certainly not intended and I apologise if anything comes across that way. Mucky Duck 09:25, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
Thanks to RobDurbar for a nice edit. On first look it seems better than either of my attempts and is mercifully short. I'll have a think over the next few days of where the usage issue (which is at the top of the talk page) might be covered in the article. --hughsheehy 09:44, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for your kind comments. I think, MuckyDuck, what you're basically wanting is something similar to the introduction as it lies now BUT with a sense that the term is also used unproblematically and with no bias intended by many. And for this to be done in a way that is as concise as possible. OR, as an alternative, not mentioning it at all. But that the latter should only be done if the former is impossible. Am I about right? --Robdurbar 09:54, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
Very nicely put (although I'd put it round the other way - nothing at all is better here in the intro, with the issue discussed fully elsewhere where proper justice can be given to it. But I'm quite content with your approach) Mucky Duck 10:15, 2 November 2006 (UTC)


First time doing this so bear with me... I'm not going to pretend I read everything that has been written on this discusion because I haven't but I scanned through it to see if anybody had already pointed out what I was going to say, which I don't believe they have. As far as I have been taught, the "Island of Ireland" is a fairly modern term and an invented one at that. The correct geographic terms to refer to the two main islands of the British Isles are Greater Britain and Lesser Britain, LB being what they will refer to as the "Island of Ireland". I don't, unfortunately, have a cite for this... anybody else ever come across this at all? 159.134.161.250 20:50, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Hmmm...I´m pretty sure "Lesser britain" is Brittany, not Ireland. Ireland has - AFAIK - never been widely called Lesser Britain. It has been Hibernia instead of Ireland but I don't remember ever seeing a reference with the use of Lesser Britain, and certainly not as a widespread usage. --hughsheehy 18:05, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
As the Origins of terms section points out, Ierne is an ancient name for the island. The map by Ortelius from 1573 says in its title box Eryn. Hiberniae Britannicae Insulae Nova Descriptio Irlandt. That gives two variants on Ireland while describing it as a Britannic island. ... dave souza, talk 21:07, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Vernacular usage of "U.K."

When and how did "United Kingdom" or "U.K." come into general popular use as opposed to legal use?

Virtually every primary or secondary source (literary, historical, etc.) that I have seen for the period 1801 to roughly the late 1960s refers to the Home Islands of the British Empire/Commonwealth collectively as "Britain" (the most common - dropping the "Great" seems to make it greater geographically speaking) or the "British Isles" or "Great Britain" or even "England". Is there a link between the use of the more precise and sensitive term "United Kingdom" and the Troubles in Northern Ireland?

Anyone in the British/Irish/Manx/Channel Isles care to shed some light on this aspect of the subject?

Mr. Mencken, lexicographer extraordinaire

64.252.213.249 04:37, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

I don't know why you should regard the terms "UK" or "United Kingdom" as sensitive, but it would seem that the term "United Kingdom" (if not its abbreviation "UK") came into use during the eighteenth century, as a result of the Act of Union with Scotland (1707). This act described the kingdom as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain" (though confusingly it also used the phrase "Kingdom of Great Britain"). The Act of Union with Ireland (1801) used the phrase "United Kingdom" consistently. Incidentally, don't be misled by historians who never use the phrase "United Kingdom" for the period 1707-1801 - contemporaries most certainly did use it, along with the perhaps even more common term "Union". TharkunColl 12:28, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

United Kingdom (or U.K.) is more sensitive because it doesn't refer to the part of Ireland controlled by the government in London (all of Ireland prior to 1922; Northern Ireland thereafter) as "Britain". Of course, this more precise language will mollify only the Unionists, not the Republicans.

As to your other point, I understand that the correct legal and constitutional terminology was United Kingdom, from 1707 or 1801 onwards. This point has been well covered by the existing article. Though I think that even here you will find official documents or political pronouncements (e.g., Churchill's wartime speeches) that refer to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland as simply "Britain". What I am talking about is the collective term for the realm used in everyday conversation, personal letters, business correspondence, novels, films, stage plays, etc. I'm having a hard time finding usages of "United Kingdom" or "U.K." in these unofficial contexts prior to the late 1960s.

Attention to this issue, either here or in a separate article, would reveal quite a bit about the evolution of British (UKer?) national identity or consciousness, away from an Anglocentric or Britoncentric model to something more inclusive.

64.252.213.96 05:40, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Mencken the lexicographer extraordinaire

I think the most common way of referring to the country during the 18th and 19th centuries would undoubtedly have been "England". As late as 1928, it was still possible for Asquith to be called (on his tomb) "Prime Minister of England". Even in the 1930s Baldwin in his speeches liked to conjure of images of "England" rather than the UK. It is ironic that pretty much as soon as the English were finally, after 250 years, conditioned into calling their country Britain or the UK, those very parts of it that were not in England have increasingly decided that they want to leave. You just can't win, can you? TharkunColl 08:36, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Seeing as we're going off topic, one interesting thing I've always noted is that if you look at the 1966 World Cup Final and see pictures of the crowd, they're all waving Union Jacks (I'm sure someone will point out that's not the flag's proper name, but I don't care!). Go to an England football match now and you'll only see the St George's Cross. Conclusion? Either that as late as the 1960s most English people equivacated the UK with England? or that over the last forty years there has been a reawakening of English idenity as something seperate from the UK? (or indeed both?). --Robdurbar 09:19, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Apparently (I'm not sure where I got this from - a BC Four documentary or something) it was the norm for all the home nations (or at least England and N. Ireland) to wave the Union Flag / Jack / Whatever its called at football matches of that period. From what I understand it's only been in the last 10-20 years (Euro 96 is often cited as a stong influence) that the George Cross has re-established itself. --Neo 10:40, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
The tendency to refer to the UK has lately been strengthened by internet pull-down lists which invariably give United Kingdom as an option, but not Britain or Great Britain. UK may have been avoided in normal speech because it's quicker and easier to say Britain or British, or indeed because of its royalist associations, but UK is less ambiguous and more official. The flag waving at football games was much commented on and subjected to some campaigning to change to the England flag at a time when devolution was a matter of hot debate: previously people just didn't seem to be so aware of the St. George's Cross flag, and sort of assumed that the Union Jack was the flag of England. Certainly during the last world cup there were many news comments about England flags on vehicles etc. – a new bookies here had a changing show of national flags, but not the England or Union Flag as far as I noticed: local sensitivities! Of course Union Flags at football games here are a sign of Rangers F.C. supporters...dave souza, talk 10:57, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Terminolgy Problems in Northern Ireland

The problems section includes the following:

In Northern Ireland ... unionists, when countering nationalist insistence on the territorial integrity of the island of Ireland, change the geographical frame of reference to that of the whole archipelago of what they call the British Isles.

What does it mean? The language sounds POV but perhaps it's not. What is it trying to say? 193.113.57.161 10:34, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

I've not read the book it comes from: perhaps the CAIN report 7 puts it better with "Unionists describe themselves as primarily British and, although this does not exclude a supplementary Irish identity, the latter is firmly subordinate to a sense of belonging to a British 'national' community. For unionists, their 'imagined community', or nation, extending beyond the confines of Northern Ireland, is Britain, regardless of whether other elements of Britishness - such as the Scots-accept this in preference to a primary Scots nation. For Irish nationalists, their imagined community, extending beyond Northern Ireland, is that of the Irish nation as a distinct political community. For many unionists, Irishness is more akin to a regional patriotism." – can that be briefly summarised? .. dave souza, talk 16:07, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Problems with Terminology

Someone keeps reverting unexpained the addition of reference to the problems with the term Ireland. There are problems with this term just as there are with British Isles and balance demands that they are either both referred or neither. 193.113.57.161 12:20, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

A proper balance demands that a minority POV should be mentioned, but should not be given the same amount of space as the majority view. TharkunColl 12:34, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
What does that mean? It is just as much a minority view that "British Isles" is a problematic term. 193.113.57.161 12:53, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, to most people who use the term there is no problem associated with it. A small (but apparently not vanishingly small) minority of people - seemingly mostly Irish (though certainly not all the Irish, and almost certainly not even a majority of them) have a problem with it. To reflect this, the article should mention this problem just once, and not devote undue space to it. I have already suggested the creation of a new article called something like British Isles (controversy) which can go into more detail, and can be linked from both this article and British Isles. To put the relative figures into perspective, note that the population of the UK outnumbers that of the Republic of Ireland by 15 to 1, so even if we were being generous and assumed that every man, woman, and child in the Republic disliked the term (which is very far from being the case - even Irish government ministers use it), then they would still only constitute a small minority of the population of the British Isles. Not so small as to not deserve a mention, but small enough that such a mention should be restricted to a single paragraph within the body of the article. TharkunColl 14:11, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
But this is equally true of the term British Isles. A small number of people mostly Irish (though certainly not all the Irish) have a problem with it. Why does the article "devote undue space" to this but not to the problems with the term Ireland? 193.113.57.161 14:20, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, this is indeed true of the term British Isles because that's exactly what I just said! It was the very term British Isles that I was talking about, because this article is entitled "British Isles (terminology)". I know that the term Ireland can be contoversial, insofar as it has a geographical and (a much more modern) political meaning that do not coincide, but this is a matter for another article. The term Britain, by the way, is equally ambiguous as it can be used informally in a political sense to refer to the whole UK. TharkunColl 14:32, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
So you're saying that the over-emphasis of one POV needs to be removed from the term British Isles? If so why remove it only from Ireland since by doing this even more emphasis is place on one POV? 193.113.57.161 14:44, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not really sure what you're getting at here. I'm talking about how the phrase British Isles is used and understood within the English language. The vast majority of people understand it to mean Britain, Ireland, and surrounding islands, and this is also its dictionary definition. The term, moreover, predates the formation of the British state (which was named after the islands and not the other way round) by at least 2000 years. If a minority of the people who live in the British Isles object to it on political grounds, then this fact should be mentioned, but not given undue space. If half the people in the British Isles objected to it, only then should their views be given equal billing. TharkunColl 14:51, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
I balanced up the introduction by putting the same reference into the Ireland entry as already exists in the British Isles entry. Both terms are controversial dending on which side of the Irish divide you stand and the refered section covers the controversial nature of both terms. Why is it valid on the one POV to refer it but on the other it is "over emphasis"? 193.113.57.161 15:05, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Any controversy over the term "Ireland" should go in the article of that name. This article is about the terminology of the British Isles, and whilst its use may well be controversial amongst some Irish people, the term also encompasses England, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man (etc.) where the term is not controversial. In other words, talking about the "Irish divide" is giving too much emphasis to just one region at the expense of other places in the British Isles. The terms "Ireland" and "British Isles" do not have equivalent weight, as the former is just one part of the latter. In any case, people in Ireland use the term regardless of which side of the "Irish divide" they are on. TharkunColl 16:42, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
The article is about the terminology of the British Isles, not the term British Isles. You seem to be arguing that undue weight should not be placed on controversy around the term British Isles and in this you are completely correct. As it stands that undue weight is in the article because the reference to controversy is applied to it but not to Ireland. 193.113.57.161 09:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

There isn't really any controversy over its meaning, is there? It just has more than one. --Robdurbar 16:57, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't know of any meaning it has other than its actual meaning, except those proposed by people simply in an attempt to muddy the waters, whilst quoting the ignorant. TharkunColl 17:01, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Is that meant as an insult? My edit is in good faith. The article needs balance. 193.113.57.161 09:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
And "British Isles" has a single meaning. Controversy arises when it is used politically to suggest that Ireland is somehow owned by Britain. Equally the term Ireland is controversial when it is used to mean, what the Irish constitution used to call its national territory and now calls the Irish nation, to suggest that Northern Ireland is somehow owned by the republic. The case is almost exactly equivalent. What's more, the section to which the reference points discusses problems with the t4erms British Isles and Ireland and yet only one of these has the reference to it. 193.113.57.161 09:36, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
No, the cases are not equivalent, because "British Isles" is not used as the name of any state or by any state. You appear to be assuming that just because it has the word "British" in it then it must be connected to the UK, but the very opposite is true - and as editors of an encyclopedia we have a duty to point this out, rather than obscure the matter even further. Ireland is part of the British Isles because that's the name of the group of islands of which it is part, and that name is well over 2000 years old. As far as I can gather, the only people who use the term "British Isles" in a political sense are those who don't like it. TharkunColl 09:49, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not assuming anything of the kind. British Isles most certain does not indicate connection with the UK. BUT this is what the controversy (again, you're right, mostly synthetic) revolves around. I absolutely agree with you regarding the term British Isles, but the article highlights the controversy in the introduction. To be balanced it should also highlight the equivalent controversy surrounding Ireland and its use politically to refer to the entire island.
Tha alternative solution is, I suppose, to remove the emphasis from the "British Isles" entry. A better solution on reflection. 193.113.57.161 10:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
The two meanings that I refered to are the sovereign state of Ireland and the lump of rock that lies somewhere to the west of Anglesey. The simplest thing here - if you can prove that the term Ireland is still considered controversial when referring to the state, and can source it, then its worht mentinioning in the terminology bit. As the intro is meant to be concise and chopped down, I really don't think its worth brigning up there. --Robdurbar 12:41, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually as I said to TharkunColl I think that on reflection I agree. The better solution is to remove it from the British Isles entry. 193.113.57.161 13:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
"As far as I can gather, the only people who use the term "British Isles" in a political sense are those who don't like it." Spot on - sums up how daft this 'controversy' is really. siarach 13:34, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Of course it's a political term. We own Northern Ireland, and the majority there want to remain in the UK. Johnox 22:28, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
If your interjection was intended to be serious Mr Knox (interesting username by the way, as an Englishman I have always felt the Calvinist religious attitudes of certain segements of the population of Scotland and their descendants in Northern Ireland to be wholly alien to my way of thinking), then it was ill thought out. Whether or not it is used as a political term in Ulster, it is not so in Great Britain. TharkunColl 00:01, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
ox is an abbreviation of my own name, nothing to do with Scotland. Britain is the biggest island, and it has the largest population. So the islands must be named British. Also we are one of the most powerful countries in the world, how would they be named anything else? Johnox 00:20, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Funny how I can't think of a similar common term for say, Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily. Perhaps the Italian Isles? or French Isles? These things can certainly be troublesome . . . Oh, we could just call them Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily. Windyjarhead 03:02, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

The fact that Sardinia etc. do not have a collective name does not change the fact that the British Isles do have a collective name, and have had it for well over 2000 years. TharkunColl 14:53, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
And yet, we get by by simply refering to the specific island. In fact the collective noun is unnecessary. Remarkable. Windyjarhead 19:51, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
And again, people persist in suggesting that the view that the term "British Isles" is controversial and disliked is a tiny minority view but offer no supporting data. There is insistence that the term has only one definition, despite previous demonstration (with data) that this is not true. Some use the comparative population of the UK and Ireland to assert that even if everyone in Ireland (either the state or the island) disliked the term, that the fact that everyone (another unsupported assertion) in the UK likes the term that the majority view should prevail (a political validation of Irish republicanism if I ever heard one). <re-edit..removing poorly chosen words>.
If "Ireland" is actually controversial then reference can be made to external sources on the controvery and we can include the reference in the header. It can clearly be ambiguous, which is different. I have updated the edit in the "Problems" section to try to reflect fact, not opinion. Hughsheehy 22:59, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I have a compromise proposal which removes the imbalance and over-emphasis of the existing text but retains the reference to problems: The introductory paragraph can refer to the problems section. Difficult to explain here so I've editted it in. Mucky Duck 12:10, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

The new proposal is terrible and vague, and (again) removes the text inserted by either robdurbar or dave souza a couple of months ago - this time in search of some vague thing called balance. If there is a problem with the term "The British Isles", which there demonstrably is (from external references) it is best stated in the introduction beside the definition. We have been here before.
If there is an extensive problem with the term "Ireland" then someone will be able to provide evidence of this, not just assert that it is true. Until evidence is provided, there is no imbalance in rob/dave´s edit and I will replace it. Also, I believe Mucky Duck is in danger on the three revert rule for repeatedly removing it over the past couple of months. Hughsheehy 12:29, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Enough with the unfounded personal attacks already. Attempted character assassination is no way to conduct a discussion. Mucky Duck 23:24, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Hughsheehy has unilateraly decided that my compromise proposal is invalid and removed it before there was any chance of discussion. I will therefore have to place it here after all for other to consider. I propose that the over emphasis on any problem with the term British Isles be resolved by revising the introductory wording as follows:
In brief, the main terms and their simple explanations are as follows. There are problems with some of the terms and these are considered below.
Mucky Duck 16:46, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
It takes away the over emphasis on one particular term so it is better but it still overstresses problems. This section is meant to be a concise summary, helpful to someone wanting to understand the terms. 193.113.57.161 11:36, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

As a dual national, with homes in the UK and Ireland, this is how I understand the term; perhaps it will help resolve some of your concerns:

The British Isles is the traditional name for the archipelago, comprising the island of Great Britain, the island of Ireland, the Isle of man and numerous smaller islands (list them if you like), in the North Atlantic off the western coast of Europe. The region encompasses territories of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Modern usage of the term is inconsistent, variously referring to; the islands of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Ireland, all islands in the region, etc (list them if you like).

Such inconsistent use has lead some, nationalists in the Republic of Ireland and republicans in Northern Ireland, to consider the term to be offensive; maintaining that it has strong colonial overtones and diminishes the sovereignty Republic of Ireland.

The term is commonly used in a geographic context in weather forecasts, but is rarely encountered in a socio-economic or political context and is falling out of general use.

I wasn't even aware the term was so ambiguous and I live here - the content of this page confirms that none of you are qualified to write the encyclopedic article you're aiming for, so don't, take a few steps back, stick to the facts and reference the conjecture - let somebody else carry the can for it. There is encyclopedic and then there's trivial 86.140.241.147 09:29, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

With a minor quibble - the term never has been socio-economic or political, it is a purely geographical term - your wording is good. It doesn't address the point of this discussion, though, which is that, as you point out, the term is not 'so ambiguous'. There is some inconsistent use of the term but this does not justify the stress that putting a statement that it is a problematic term into the brief introductory definition gives. The discussion does belong here but in the section where the terms are fleshed out. 193.113.57.161 10:26, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Again, re the recent reinsertion of unsupported assertions, WP edits are based on opinion without references. Hughsheehy 02:55, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Tell me. Why have you placed that as a response to my comment? 193.113.57.161 09:33, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Thule is not Iceland

The article Thule makes it clear that the term could be used for all sorts of places, including many within the British Isles. Why does the article as it stands state that Iceland was intended? Is it an attempt to muddy the waters even further, to try and say that "British Isles" has no coherent meaning? TharkunColl 00:38, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

No "muddying" is intended. The Thule article states (correctly) that the term was used to describe many different places, often as a sort of "the ends of the earth" term. The reason the article - as it stands - states that Iceland was intended in this case is because that is the consensus scholarly interpretation of how it was used by Pytheas, Pliny, etc. This was already extensively discussed, with references, on the talk page either here or at British Isles page. Hughsheehy 12:22, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
In fact, the discussion on Thule as Iceland on the discussion page included TharkunColl, who now seems to have forgotten this fact. Hughsheehy 16:14, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  • ...it would seem most probable that the island here intended was Mainland, the chief of the Shetland islands... Some authorities have supposed that Iceland is meant, and others Lapland; but these conjectures seem to carry us too far afield.Tozer, H.F. (1971). A History of Ancient Geography. pp. p. 159. 

  • Scholars variously identify Thule as Iceland, Norway, the Shetland Islands, or the Orkney Islands, but no one solution is entirely satisfactory.Magill, Frank N., ed. (1998). Dictionary of World Biography: The Ancient World. 1. pp. p. 732. 

  • Even today we cannot be certain where his Thule is, or whether he actually visited it. Some have associated Thule with the Shetlands and the Orkneys, but more likely possibilities are Iceland or part of Norway.Deacon, G.E.R. (1962). Seas, Maps, and Men: An Atlas-History of Man's Exploration of the Oceans. pp. p. 24. 

The 2004 Columbia states: "variously identified with Iceland, Norway, and the Shetland Islands." Where do you find this scholarly or talk page consensus that the Thule of Pytheas, Pliny, and Strabo was without doubt Iceland?EricR 16:40, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Fair enough, the majority view is Iceland then, not necessarily consensus. But it is the majority view. Also, if it isn´t Iceland then the next most likely candidate is the coast of Norway. Hughsheehy 17:03, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh, one other thing. Thule has been identified as all sorts of places in other texts, including places in the Baltic. HOWEVER, the issue is what Pytheas, Pliny, etc., meant when they used Thule as part of their British Isles. There the clear majority view is that they meant Iceland. If you read Pliny itself it´s pretty clear it isn´t the Orkneys he´s talking about. Hughsheehy 17:22, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
All of the above quotes were re Pytheas and/or Pliny. I've got more if you like, or we could move them to the BI reference subpage and i'll provide fuller quotes w/ more context.EricR 17:29, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I'm finding sources describing the voyage, and Pliny's later account, which state "probably Shetlands", or "probably Iceland", or "possibly Norway". Why would a "majority view" of scholars allow us to state Thule is Iceland w/o question within the article? And what do we have to show that Iceland is in fact majority opinion?EricR 17:25, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
And I find the majority of sources (from notes in several translations of Pliny to the Icelandic Tourism website to 8th century Irish monks) that say that Thule was Iceland. The notes on Pliny/Strabo translations, and other similar sources, often mention that it was possible it was someplace else (from Norway to the Shetlands) but the majority view is Iceland. Reference to Thule from other writers and in other contexts can be about Southern Sweden or Islands in the Baltic, but Thule in Pytheas/Pliny/Strabo seems to be either Iceland or maybe somewhere in Norway.
Further, I ask a question back, as I wonder whether this whole question isn't based on some fundamentally POV approach. Why would Pytheas/Pliny/Strabo's Thule being Iceland mean - and I refer to TharkunColl's accusation that I was muddying the water - that the term "The British Isles" has no coherent meaning? What has that got to do with it? Hughsheehy 14:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

(unindent, responding to Hugh) A few bullet points:

  • counting the references to Thule on an Icelandic tourism site cannot demonstrate some "majority view". If the documents you are looking at have been published, then they can certainly be used in the article, but does one of them tell us what the "majority view" of some group of people is concerning the Thule?
  • I have no idea what any "majority view" could be, but why should it matter? All the sources i've seen so far have been qualified: probably this island, or maybe that island, or we'll never really know for ceartain, yet within the article you would like to state that Thule is Iceland. How can we make such a conclusive statement in the face of all these conflicting views, even if one is somehow shown to be the majority?
  • I'm not taking any quotes out of context here, the sources provided have all been discussing Pytheas/Pliny.
  • I think it's clear that Strabo did not accept the Thule of Pytheas (2.5.8), if you discount my reading of that primary source then i seem to recall a secondary source which makes the point.
  • Of course this whole question of what Thule could be is transparently based on a couple of POV agendas. If you think i'm pushing one in particular, then fine, there's probably no possible way i could convince you otherwise. Still, that's no reason not to address any valid points i've raised.

EricR 16:12, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I don't think it was anywhere specific, which is why my wording has left the choice ambiguous. I don't believe those Classical authors had any clear mental image of the geographical layout of the seas to the north of the British Isles, and it is preposterous to pinpoint one particular location for Thule - especially when it happens to be the one that is furthest away and least likely. TharkunColl 16:21, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


I don't think we have to say that it IS Iceland and I don't remember that it did say it so definitely..maybe I'm wrong. It may have been been too definite on this page, but it wasn't on the other (or vice versa)..it said something more nuanced and maybe should have been more nuanced here too. It would be fine to say that it was probably Iceland, or even that lots of scholars think it was most likely Iceland, or that the place most often identified as it was Iceland, all of which are true (and no, it isn't necessary just to point at the Icelandic tourist website).
We can also mention the other places that are most often suggested - as long as it is done in a neutral way and isn't some attempt to get the potential places back into a predefined box that suits some agenda. I get the impression that TharkinColl is trying to push some POV here and migrate Thule back into the Shetlands so that it fits within the current boundaries of the British Isles.
I don't have a personal view on where Pytheas' Thule was. Strabo doubted it existed at all because he didn't trust Pytheas and Pliny might not have been sure, but TharkunColl's view that it wasn't anywhere specific is only his view..and his view that Iceland is the least likely is NOT SUPPORTED by the scholarly view. It turns out that Iceland does exist, so maybe Strabo was wrong to doubt Pytheas and as for its identification as Iceland, if we're going to have to have a war of references we can go right ahead. If nothing else, Irish monks in the post-Roman period thought Thule was Iceland, and they are a lot closer to the debate than we are. Meantime, I completely share the idea that these Greeks and Romans had very little idea where they were, or where they were describing (and I have said so on these pages before) but it doesn't change what they wrote and I will continue to insert the appropriate text to refer what they actually wrote and how that is most often interpreted, here and on the British Isles page. Hughsheehy 18:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Hi again. I had a go at tidying up the reference to Thule on the main page. Please have a look. I put the appropriate disclaimers and references in which ( i hope) make a reasonable stab at a balanced presentation. Hughsheehy 21:15, 18 December 2006 (UTC)


Origin of terms

A thought... There's lots of good information here on the origin of the term Britain and British Isles, but less clear info on the origin of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, etc. Should the the focus of this page be moved to the subsiduiary names, and let the bulk of the content on british Isles move to the main page? That would allow introductory-level info on all the other terms and make the page a lot richer. Also, the info on British Isles is good stuff and is currently not shown on the main page. Hughsheehy 21:19, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

All good suggestions. --Robdurbar 21:25, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
Oppose. The main article already has a (very) large paragraph on the origin of the term. The version here is verbose in the extreme. Let sleeping cats lie. --Red King 17:24, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
The idea was (1) to reduce the section on the origin of British Isles by moving the bulk of the text to the main British Isles page....thus reducing the section in this page that Red King thinks is verbose in the extreme (and i don´t really disagree with that characterisation of the section) and (2) to insert brief summaries of the origin on the words Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Britain, etc.. Those are not (AFAIK) controversial terms and wouldn´t wake any sleeping cats. Hughsheehy 14:33, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

BBC "Coast"

Just thought mention - the BBC natural history programme "Coast", currently enjoying a fair amount of acclaim, does most definately stick to the old "British Isles being a neutral geographical term that includes Ireland" terminology. No doubt Irish Nationalists are fuming :)--feline1 23:51, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

There is no need to be offensive. We do not all espouse this silliness and political posturing over what is just a name. Naomhain 14:59, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree there's no need to be offensive about it, which is why I was merely being dryly lighthearted... (unlike many of the anguished posters on this topic :)--feline1 15:51, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
If the geographical term "Irish Sea" is acceptable to the UK and the geographical term "British Isles" is acceptable to the Republic of Ireland, then that sounds like the basis of a compromise. -- Abut 22:44, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I suppose we could go back to the previous name for the North Sea then too. It was - if I remember correctly - the German Sea. Let's see. "Newcastle and Edinburgh are two large cities on the German Sea. The Thames reaches the German Sea 50 miles east of London." Fun Fun Fun! Hughsheehy 15:47, 5 February 2007 (UTC)