britishness, englishness, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling

geeky deed of the day

I just happened to end up on the ‘Harry Potter’ wikipedia page to check the book series’ sales. I noticed that J.K. Rowling was referred to as an ‘English’ author. Given her ties with Scotland, and her political attachment to PM Brown, I thought that ‘English’ was not the most appropriate definition for her. So I changed it to ‘British’.

UPDATE: the wikipedia establishment stroke back, and changed ‘British’ back to ‘English’. So I had to change it again. But I can’t do that all day: so if someone finds ‘English’ again, well, you know what to do.

UPDATE 2: there is now an ongoing discussion on whether it should be ‘English’ or ‘British’ here.


9 thoughts on “geeky deed of the day

  1. Sorry Yucca, if she’s born in England she’s English … unless she decides she’s a naturalised Scot … or doesn’t like being called English … in which case she might be British.

    Has anyone asked her?

  2. i dont know that it is that simple Alasdair…

    I agree that it would be quite difficult to call her scottish, but that was not my proposal:

    my proposal is that for people like j.k. rowling it might make sense to talk of them being british. that is, something other than either english or scottish

    but, to be honest, it is not with rowling that im interested (i have never even read harry potter). it is with the concept of britishness in general, and whether there might be people, in this country, that are neither english, nor welsh, nor scottish… but that are, nevertheless, british

    take for example my case: im italian through and through. and i think that, whatever my passport says today or will say in the future, i will always be italian. that is, my nationality will always be italian

    but i think that my attachment to this land (as in scotland, but also britain) has grown through the years, and even though i dont think i can ever be a scot, i think that if i was to get a british passport, which i could do tomorrow, that might represent something more than just my long-term residence in this country. it might also acknowledge a substantial part of my identity.

    but my case is not the relevant one here: the relevant one is, i think, the gordon brown kind of case. now, brown happens to reject his scottishness only for political reasons. but there will be plenty of scots down in england (or overseas) that might have truly become something other than just scottish. it is not about no longer belonging to some nation – it is about developing a further, or complementary, identity.

    two final points: i dont think that where you are born is either a necessary nor sufficient condition for nationality. and i dont think that asking someone is final: people are wrong about themselves all the time. and which nationality you are does not come down to which nationality you want to be.


  3. Hmmm… Why do I doubt the ability of Wikipedia’s “hundreds of editors” to be able to appreciate the subtleties of the English/British debate? Couldn’t be because they’re mostly American, and therefore largely unaware of the difference, (just as I’m unaware of the difference between Iowa and Indiana) could it? Nah – because then I’d be accused of being anti-American…

    You might want to point out that there’s no such thing as an English passport, though…

  4. Hi Nosemonkey,

    Exactly what I was thinking yesterday, actually: what do they know? but then again, what do i know? poor foreigner as i’m…

    good point about the english passport, but then again what they are concerned with is english nationality as opposed to english citizenship…

    the interesting political point, anyway, is the possibility of such a thing as british nationality as opposed to british citizenship. do you think there is such a thing?


  5. Considering I don’t much like the idea of nation states, but at the same time object to being called a British citizen for the entirely contradictory reason that I see myself as a subject, I’m probably not the best person to ask about this…

    Personally, I see myself as British before English despite having been born in England, lived here all my life, and both parents being English – probably because of all the Cornish and Scottish blood in me… As such I consider my nationality to be British as well – and as nationality is primarily a matter of self-identity, that’s what I reckon should count, rather than narrow legal definitions.

  6. thanks for that Nosemonkey.

    in the last few days I have been speaking to quite a lot of people on this issue, and you find, on those isles, only two kinds: either they tell you, as you just did, that they consider themselves british before english or scottish. or they tell you (with that pratronising tone reserved for foreigners) that NO ONE, NO ONE on those isles will consider themselves british first, don’t be silly

    people of the second kind, you understand, dont really know what counterexamples are… so its of little use pointing them to people of the first kind


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