The pedants are revolting!Thursday, January 19, 2012
I have absolutely no intention of wading into the whole Scottish independence debate on here. I spend my life uncomfortably wedged between a fervent nationalist (my mother) and a staunch unionist (my husband), so the only sensible course of action here is for me to sink gratefully into a warm bath of indifference. It's a self-preservation thing.
But there is one thing that never fails to ruffle the calm waters of my disinterest. One thing guaranteed to have me leaping to my feet, dripping with righteous indignation. This one thing can be summed up in eight short words:
"England" and "Britain" are not the same thing.
One more time, for the folks at the back:
"England" and "Britain" are NOT. THE. SAME. THING.
Those of you who live on this fair isle will I hope be reasonably familiar with this concept. Those of you who live in other places, places where pants are trousers and sunshine is more than a bi-annual occurrence, well, I understand that the United Kingdom has a unique constitutional arrangement and not everyone in the entire world is educated about it from birth (more's the pity). But oh good lord, whenever I hear people referring to England when they mean the UK, it drives me crazy.
To be clear: I say this not as a patriot (although I am quite fond of our soggy little nation, and it hurts me to see it perceived as just another English county), but as an irredeemable, incurable pedant.
Seriously. It's like a disease. Whenever someone writes or says something that I know to be factually incorrect in even the smallest respect, I find it physically painful to keep my corrections to myself. My husband will confirm that it is my most irritating trait. And not in an endearing way.
At least I'm aware of it, and I am *trying* to get better. I almost got into a disagreement with one of my closest friends over whether it was James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks who announced the News of the World closure to its staff. Even though I knew the answer (hint: it wasn't the redhead) and even though there was a computer sitting there winking at me, flashing its search engines, offering to prove me right, I somehow managed to restrain myself and just... let it go. Because does being right matter more than being a friend? No. Probably. No, definitely no.
(Although apparently I didn't really let it go, since this happened in July and I'm clearly still bitter about it. And now I've flaunted my rightness all over my blog. Like I said: incurable.)
So who has incurred my pedantic wrath this week, I hear you cry? Well, it was none other than the goddess that is Meryl Streep. Usually, Meryl can do no wrong in my eyes, but after winning a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, she made sure to thank, in her speech, "everybody in England" for letting her "trample all over their history".
Oh, Meryl. Meryl, Meryl, Meryl. How could you let me down like this? You seem like an intelligent woman. You've just spent weeks living in this country. Worse than that, you were here giving what could be the defining performance of your career as one of the most notorious leaders this country has ever had. How is it possible that you still don't know what this country is called? Margaret Thatcher was not the Prime Minister of England. England does not have a Prime Minister. England no longer has a parliament. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland does. LOOK IT UP.
There is another possibility, of course. Maybe Meryl's speech was really a clever allusion to the fact that, even though Thatcher decimated Scotland's industrial communities, put a fifth of its workforce out of a job within the first two years of her administration and imposed upon its people the most unpopular tax in Scottish history, her Conservative government never actually won a majority in Scotland. So we do technically have the people of England (well, okay, mainly the posh ones in the south) to thank for that. (Thanks.)
In which case, Meryl, by all means - trample away. I'll even hold your giant skirt for you.