06 October 2006

Goodbye British Isles, Hello Northwest European Archipelago?

Irish publisher Folens intends to produce a "more correct" version of its school atlas which will omit all references to the "British Isles".

Following a complaint by a parent to the Irish Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, her private secretary issued a letter on her behalf recommending that the aggrieved parent bring the matter to the geography teacher in question and to the publisher. It looks as is the parent took issue with the teacher and the teacher took issue with the publisher The upshot is that Folens is deleting all references to the British Isles from its school atlases from 2007.

In my view it is no big deal to lose the "British Isles” but the expression refers to those who lived on the islands in pre-Roman times (or the Pretani as they were described by the Greek traveller Pytheas). It was first used in English as a geographical term by Peter Heylin in 1621 in a collection of lectures called the Microcosmus: a little description of the great world.

The problem of course is that the main modern meaning of the word British is "of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom or its people". As a result the terms “British Isles” can be misinterpreted to show that the Irish Republic is part of the UK - even though the expression as we can see is not intended to convey any such meaning.

There is no widely accepted alternative to the British Isles although all of the following have been used in recent years:

The Islands or These Islands

IONA – the Islands of the North Atlantic

Anglo-Celtic Isles

The Northwest European Archipelago.

The West European Isles

ISLANDS OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC? Give me strength!! I am sure we inhabitants could come up with something better than those ugly expressions… These Sceptered Isles?. The Bejewelled Isles? Hmm it’s not that easy… Anyone got a better idea?


Anonymous said...

In "Confessions of an Irish rebel" BB calls them the British isles.

Temporarily Occupied Ultima Thule, anyone?

jams o donnell said...

Hmm How about the Archipelago of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, The States of Jersey and Guernsey (even though we are not really part of the Archipelago) and the Isle of Man but not Sealand because that's not a real state?

Redwine said...

Khe, The Four Green Fieldlands? or FGF-islands, or, or,k or.... an island bu another name? No Isle of Wymin, Jams?

Redwine said...


jams o donnell said...

No but we have the Isle of Wight! If ths is an archipelago then perhaps the Grand Union of Lancastrian and Gael. it can be the GLUAG Archi..... perhaps not!

sonia said...

How about John Bull Islands ?

jams o donnell said...

A suggestion that would get a person a good kicking in much of the North West Europe Archipelago, Sonia!

Anonymous said...

And we have the nerve to laugh at those gobdaws over in the US who deny evolution.

Why dont the Publishing company go the whole hog and give us "The Welsh Sea" and "The French Channel" or (since the company in question was founded by Flemmish Nazi collaborator Albert Folens) Just refer to the British Isles as "Outer Saxony (West)"

jams o donnell said...

Indeed. The Cathal O Shannon programmes about Ireland's Nazis is being shown here on cable. Next week is the the episode which features Folens. I am looking forward to seeing it

CiarĂ¡n said...

Look ye dont own d plce anymore (fo almost 100 years now)live with it
or is painful that everybody doesnt want to be "great britih"

TALLY said...

just watched a programme on Folens
who was a Nazi and managed to get into Ireland with the aid of the catholic church and the IRA. I'm nit surprised Britain has been wiped off the map.