Africa starts at Calais. (British expression.) Wogs/ Niggers begin at Calais

James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
Obviously an old-fashioned expression which is not heard a lot today. I have heard it, but cannot quite remember whether it is "Africa starts at Calais" or "Africa begins at Calais"... [Whichever way, the meaning is the same, i.e. the Continent is full of barbarians, prejudices being what they are and/or were.] The expression is rarely used today and generally in a humorous way. If anyone knows where it originates, I would be interested to know. I have read on the web that A Hitler used it but I am sceptical: (a) I believe it is an English expression; (b) Hitler would have included himself and his fellow Germans among the 'savages'.

Suggestions welcome
 
  • jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    Evidently the French say that Africa begins at the Pyrennees, with the same kind of negative attitude against the Spanish (and Africans) that the English have/had against the French (and Africans) and the rest of Europe. I wonder if someone else, thinking of Hannibal/and or Italians, says that Africa begins at the Alps? Unpleasantness takes many forms....
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    The Spaniards have a lovely way of dealing with geography. There was a Spanish expression--don't know if it's used much these days-- that translates roughly as follows:

    Europe ends at the Pyrennees, Africa begins with Morocco.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I've never heard the cleaned-up "Africa" version. It's "the Wogs" that start at Calais in the original. It's not so much a general British animus toward France as a late and post-Colonial dislike of loose immigration policy in France regarding Algerians-- especially during the war there that ended in 1962. As I understand it, that one part of the Maritime Empire was legally part of France, and Algerians could travel there without a visa, enjoying full citizenship.

    Racist? In southern Italy where I lived at the time a similar disdain for the French policy evolved. Libians and Somalians weren't allowed to immigrate en masse when Colonial regimes collapsed in 1945 and certain colonials faced retribution for collaborating with the Imperialists. The French held themselves to be more "enlightened" in taking the opposite opproach-- so there was some degree of Schadenfreude, especially in the conservative South, when the French policy failed to prevent a bloody and complicated war.
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    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Thanks for comments and I was not aware that the expression might be linked to awareness (and rejection), in Britain, of immigration policy at one stage or other, prevailing in France - I assumed it was more to do with general prejudice against "continentals" and their unwashed ways (allegedly)...

    In other words, close to the equally insular Spanish saying that is quoted - but Spain, historically, was very insular too, since the Pyrenees always cut the country off from the rest of Europe (hence perhaps another incentive to venture overseas...).

    If I review your replies, no one has expressed a view as to whether it should be 'start' or 'begin' that is used - I believe either could be.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    A quick Google turned up "begins" and not "starts"; perhaps the original began as a translation from some other language, in which case either might do....
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Well as long as you're googling, you might as well use the original expression:

    Wogs begin 390
    Wogs start 222

    Not what I'd call conclusive, especially since I saw a Kansas in there, instead of Calais. Up here in Indian country the whole idea of "wogs" is a little irrelevant-- unless it means Californians.
    .
     

    Dr. Quizá

    Senior Member
    Spain - Western Andalusian Spanish.
    jimreilly said:
    Evidently the French say that Africa begins at the Pyrennees
    And so do we in Spain. We are the Self-Critical World Champions :p But if we say that of ourselves, just imagine what can we say of other countries :D
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    So, it sounds like it should be "begin" rather than "start", even though both are used - and whether we are referring to Calais or Kansas or Spain as the starting point, and whether the natives of those parts are referred to as "wogs" or not! ;)
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    James Brandon said:
    So, it sounds like it should be "begin" rather than "start", even though both are used - and whether we are referring to Calais or Kansas or Spain as the starting point, and whether the natives of those parts are referred to as "wogs" or not! ;)
    I know you're being humorous, but the issue I take with following Google as a guide to usage is very humorless-- my tendency toward curmudgeonly rants against Google have probably been noted by some.

    First it's usage, then it's thinking, then it's an overt proscription of this or that mode of behavior-- all with the imprimatur of that worst of tyrannies, the one an aroused Majority can so capriciously wield. Mob rule, the nth degree of "democracy."

    Google represents a very slippery slope, and they are very frank about what they're doing, as though they don't see the anti-republican implications. No, I don't mean the GOP, small-r "republican" is a concept in opposition to "Imperial" or "Loyalist." Nazi Germany didn't have a republic, the U.S. still does, kinda, whether those insidious polls trend to the red end of the spectrum or the blue.

    I'm not going to spell forgone with an inserted "e" just because the Google count on that practice is up by a margin of five figures, or seven, or ten.

    In hopes that the usage-vs-precept topic is relevant to this "begin" vs "start" topic, I'd like to briefly suggest, again, that people google Google, and find out what you can about their relationship with the Chinese government, and the aid they are giving in the technology of population control-- by managing the "content" (yes, the word-count) of messages people put on the internet. Mention "Falun Gong" on a forum, and if your ISP is Chinese your OS is likely to clog with spyware of a whole nother sort. Learn about it, it can happen here.
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    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would still like to know from a classicist among us if there are any similar expressions from Roman (or even Greek) times relating to where Africa does or doesn't begin. To trace this expression back just to late colonial or post-colonial times might be missing something?
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Jimreilly,

    I have always understood the expression to be due to/related to British insularity rather than imperialism per se (whether recent or not).

    As for the point made by Foxfirebrand regarding Google, i.e. (a) That it is dangerous to consider that they are an arbiter of good taste (clearly, they are not); (b) That they have been found wanting when it comes to transparency and democracy, notably in their dealings in China (see recent press coverage and the fact that Google openly works with the Chinese authorities, in mainland China - another version of being 'glocal'!) - I can see what he is trying to say.

    However, I have always understood that references to given web sites on Google come top when, in the main, they are those most wanted/consulted by readers - this is no definition of 'good taste', but it points towards generalized usage. But maybe this is simplistic...

    As for the expression at issue here, for my part, I only found 3 or 4 references to it on Google, not any more than that, which is rather puzzling. Maybe my PC home PC won't let me access such 'colonial' prejudice!

    All the best
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I use Wikipedia too, and if I'm looking up something like the perihelion of a certain asteroid, I tend to accept it as "fact."

    And who doesn't use Google? Evil as it will evolve to be, it can also be fun. Ask it, for example, what "begins at Calais," and here is the tally of the first 6 pages of results:

    ignorance 7 times
    Europe 5
    everything 4
    Euro-Route R-1 4
    fascism 3
    the jungle 3
    Africa 2
    Asia 2
    the Continent 2
    really shoddy service 2
    Frenchness 2
    French toughness
    southern Europe
    the government's resolve
    everything, not just Frenchness
    injustice
    perfidy
    "we know what" (things other than "clear-thinking Anglo-Saxon")
    international law, like the wogs of old
    the world of untrustworthy foreigners
    .
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    jimreilly said:
    I would still like to know from a classicist among us if there are any similar expressions from Roman (or even Greek) times relating to where Africa does or doesn't begin. To trace this expression back just to late colonial or post-colonial times might be missing something?
    I have a BA in Classics (hurrah), but I don't recall anything specific about this. In general, I can tell you that the farther you went from Rome, the farther you were removed from "civilization", that view was very prevalent. I can also remind you that the Roman Empire, at its height, covered northern Africa, as well as the rest of the Mediterranean basin and as far north as Britain and the Rhone.

    We don't have a vast majority of documents from antiquity, and some of them are corrupted. Most of what we know of this kind of thing is derived from the self-proclaimed "historians", such as Tacitus, Herodotus, Livy, and Thucydides. It's likely that one of them mentioned "where Africa began" in their histories.

    I have read more about where the "north" began than the "south". It seems to me that Africa was thought to be more civilized than some places. You have Egypt, Carthage, the library of Alexandria, etc. there, for instance. Herodotus travelled Africa fairly extensively, according to his histories, and wrote a good bit about it. I would look to one of the other historians for specifics like this, though. Herodotus is known for talking about the Persian war and for finding odd folklore and tales to tell more than anything else.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I don't think the Romans thought of the world according to our continental terms-- to them anything beyond the Mediterranean basin was a vast expanse, and it didn't much matter in what direction. Africa was a specific province created out of the homeland of the defeatid Punic people, and it corresponds roughly to Tunisia. Egypt was simply Egypt, and was not thought to be connected with Africa any more than it was with Syria, which was not synonymous with "Asia"-- a Greek concept that had to do with lands surrounding Persia. Asia was anything beyond that land, and "Asia Minor" was anything between Persia and Greece. "Europe" was also a Hellenic concept, and it meant the unexplored inland area north and west of the Greek world, which of course included not only Greece but the southern half of Italy and the area now called Provence.
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    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    jimreilly said:
    A quick Google turned up "begins" and not "starts"; perhaps the original began as a translation from some other language, in which case either might do....
    Jimreilly, what did you put into the search box when you Googled? When I put each of the expressions in there with quotation marks, I got six listings for both of them. :confused:
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    Damned if I know--I just did it again and got your results. I also just did a Netscape search and got 3 for "begins" and two for "starts", one of which was the discussion on the Wordreference site, which hardly counts under the circumstances, does it!
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't think the word 'Africa' had any derogatory conotations to the ancient Romans. As others have noted, a substantial part of the Roman Empire was in North Africa.

    James Brandon said:
    Thanks for comments and I was not aware that the expression might be linked to awareness (and rejection), in Britain, of immigration policy at one stage or other, prevailing in France - I assumed it was more to do with general prejudice against "continentals" and their unwashed ways (allegedly)...
    If you say the expression is old-fashioned, then it doesn't seem likely that it has anything to do with mass immigration from Africa, which is a fairly recent phenomenon in Europe.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Outsider,

    I do believe it is old-fashioned and, indeed, in the UK today, no one uses it or would want to be heard using it, in the main, if only because it sounds old-fashioned and faintly silly, apart from being potentially racist in tone! When used, the expression will tend to be used in a humorous/ironic way. (E.g.: when making fun of something happening in France, such as a strike in a port where British tourists are "taken hostage".) As for the ref. to immigration issues, I believe it was Foxfirebrand linking the use of the expression to the 1960s and the Algerian War, i.e. a while ago, but not that long ago...

    As for the general comments on issues of a historical nature (and references to Ancient Greece and Rome), there is no doubt that virtually all civilisations have tended to regard outsiders as inferiors, starting in the West with the Greek/Roman view of 'others' as 'barbarians'. In Roman times, this would have included sub-Saharan Africa/the Sudan, which were not well known, but most certainly not N Africa, which was very much part of the Empire (indeed the Roman province of Africa was highly civilised and was today's Tunisia). Romans would rather have considered what is today Holland, England and Germany as the ultimate symbol of backwardness, no doubt (as conveyed in the film 'Gladiator'). Julius Caesar, when he subdued Celtic England (before it was called England), must have felt a bit like a British general in charge of a colonial foray into some backwater of Papua New Guinea would have felt round 1880...

    After all this, it would be interesting if an African reader/contributor could come up with a saying, old or new, regarding nations/groups situated North of where he/she comes from - there might be something along the lines of: 'The Barbarians live North of the hills' (i.e. North of Ethiopia, etc.), or something like this!
     

    DaleC

    Senior Member
    James Brandon said:
    Obviously an old-fashioned expression which is not heard a lot today. I have heard it, but cannot quite remember whether it is "Africa starts at Calais" or "Africa begins at Calais"...
    Have you really heard it, or do you think you've heard it. Maybe you "heard it" from someone who in turn just thought they "heard it". This saying does not make any sense from a knowledge of western European history. I.e., it makes no sense that the English would have thought this of the French, the ancient rivalry notwithstanding. The English do not have a reputation of having considered the French less advanced than themselves.

    The saying "Africa begins at the Pyrenees" specifically refers to Spain's relative backwardness at the grand scale of European history from 1700 on. In the 1500's Spain was the most advanced European country thanks to its New World plunder. It and Portugal were the pioneers in European overseas colonialization, by a century. Cervantes pioneered the modern novel. Spanish steel was Europe's finest. But in the middle 1600's, France and England caught up as they created their own overseas colonial empires. Meanwhile, Spain was mired in an extreme form of Roman Catholic conservatism (which lasted until the 1900's), unlike France, another Roman Catholic country. Spain did not contribute to the Enlightenment, which was the work of north and west Europe, and subsequently did not contribute to the Industrial Revolutions. The Italian composer Rossini said, "Thank God for the Spaniards. If not for the Spaniards, the Italians would be the last men [i.e., in last place] in Europe." We must also remind ourselves that large portions of Spain had been ruled by Moroccans until 1492.
    (See Franz Borkenau, The Spanish Cockpit, ca. 1938)

    So I am not convinced that you have heard what you think you have heard. It sounds like distinct ancient British attitudes about France and Spain have been forgotten and mashed together to generate two dozen corrupted versions of old sayings.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Dalec,

    I am sorry but you are sitting somewhere in San Diego, and I am in London. If I say to you that I have heard this expression - it means that I have. I have not invented it, no. What I was not 100% sure about was whether one would rather say "start" or "begin" - but the expression does exist and I am 100% sure of that.

    As for the British looking down on the French or not, we all know that the English, in the Middle Ages, were probably rather backward as compared to the Normans who came to rule them (and who came from NW France), etc. But the saying in question relates to contemporary British attitudes and a bit before - I would date if from some time between 1750 and 1925... The fact it is not much used today (also because of political correctness) does not mean that it does not exist or has never existed.

    See comments posted up by various contributors (also American), results of Google searches, etc. It is not just me saying this!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is no Google evidence to support any commonly-recorded statement of the forms:
    XXX begins at Calais
    XXX starts at Calais
    empire begins at ...
    empire starts at ...
    india begins at ...
    india starts at ...
    africa begins at ...
    africa starts at ...

    I reckon we need more support for the incidence of the expression "XXX starts at Calais" if we are to avoid inventing things.

    Edit:
    I can't find any pattern for anything that may have "stopped at Calais" either.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Panj,

    Re.: Living in denial.

    There is evidence - if you do a Google search (for what it is worth - see yesterday's debate over this), 3 to 6 entries come up, I believe. And if you do the even cruder 'wogs start at...', which I have not tried to do, according to Foxfirebrand, many entries come up - and some relate to Kansas, of all places... Ultimately, I know that the expression exists, that I have heard it, and that's that. Thank you.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    James Brandon said:
    Panj,

    Re.: Living in denial.

    There is evidence - if you do a Google search (for what it is worth - see yesterday's debate over this), 3 to 6 entries come up, I believe. And if you do the even cruder 'wogs start at...', which I have not tried to do, according to Foxfirebrand, many entries come up - and some relate to Kansas, of all places... Ultimately, I know that the expression exists, that I have heard it, and that's that. Thank you.
    I got the small number of entries, but in Google terms, I would expect hundreds at least to justify calling something common, 3-6 are not significant.

    I use Google with extreme caution, but within the small numbers I found related to the searches I used, there was wide variation in the contexts and no detectable pattern.

    The only phrase of significance I could find was "... wogs begin at Calais ...", amongst about 400 or so very assorted hits for "begin at Calais".

    Apart from "wogs begin at Calais" and variants thereof, I don't see any pattern there.

    Edit: There seems to be nothing relevant in the British National Corpus either?
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Please take google with a lump of salt. What's common or often heard in speech may appear statistically insignificant in uncle google's realm.

    Here's an example of a phrase common in the upper mid-western US and in Alaska:

    slick as deer guts on a doorknob

    It shows up in googledom a mere 186 times, which is akin to microscopic dust.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    cuchuflete said:
    Please take google with a lump of salt. What's common or often heard in speech may appear statistically insignificant in uncle google's realm.

    Here's an example of a phrase common in the upper mid-western US and in Alaska:

    slick as deer guts on a doorknob

    It shows up in googledom a mere 186 times, which is akin to microscopic dust.
    Ah, but that is amazingly common compared with the hits found for anything related to a boundary at Calais.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    cuchuflete said:
    Here's an example of a phrase common in the upper mid-western US and in Alaska:

    slick as deer guts on a doorknob
    Well, let's not allow controversy to be the exclusive purview of the Brits and their "wogs." I'm familiar with your expression, after a fashion, and agree that it's common-- but I've only ever heard of deer guts on a door handle. Now ain't that odd?

    I thought to google it belatedly-- all of 2 hits.
    .
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    James Brandon said:
    Outsider,

    After all this, it would be interesting if an African reader/contributor could come up with a saying, old or new, regarding nations/groups situated North of where he/she comes from - there might be something along the lines of: 'The Barbarians live North of the hills' (i.e. North of Ethiopia, etc.), or something like this!

    I asked my African housemate from Guinée and he couldn't think of an expression right off, but he said there is a word for such ethnic joking, Sanakou. There are so many ethnic groups in West Africa, of course, so there are lots of opportunities for such joking!

    Here in Minnesota some people joke about proper civilization stopping at the Iowa border, and we are fond of comparing the Twin Cities (favorably, of course) with Des Moines or even (heaven forbid) Omaha. So I imagine these things are pretty darn near universal.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    panjandrum said:
    Ah, but that is amazingly common compared with the hits found for anything related to a boundary at Calais.
    James Brandon did say it's an old expression, so that's not surprising.

    jimreilly said:
    James Brandon said:
    Outsider,

    After all this, it would be interesting if an African reader/contributor could come up with a saying, old or new, regarding nations/groups situated North of where he/she comes from - there might be something along the lines of: 'The Barbarians live North of the hills' (i.e. North of Ethiopia, etc.), or something like this!
    I asked my African housemate from Guinée and he couldn't think of an expression right off, but he said there is a word for such ethnic joking, Sanakou. There are so many ethnic groups in West Africa, of course, so there are lots of opportunities for such joking!

    Here in Minnesota some people joke about proper civilization stopping at the Iowa border, and we are fond of comparing the Twin Cities (favorably, of course) with Des Moines or even (heaven forbid) Omaha. So I imagine these things are pretty darn near universal.
    All ancient or isolated civilizations tend to think of themselves as more advanced, prettier, and generally better than everyone else. For example, the ancient Egyptians described their Middle Eastern neighbours to the North and their African neighbours to the South in very disparaging terms. I read an interesting essay about this a few days ago, but unfortunately I can't recall the url. :(
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Thanks for insightful comments from all and sundry. The discussion moved on from what the phrase in question is or should be (I don't mean 'should' from a moral standpoint, of course, but from a linguistic-accuracy standpoint), to: Does it exist? Since most people tend to rely on Google for frequency of occurrence (which may or may not be a good thing), the discussion then focused on how reliable Google can be.

    All this is relative. No one can say that something does not exist because it cannot be found on Google - this would not be very scientific. But one may rationally argue that something does exist if it (i.e. a reference to it) can be found on Google. In the case of a given idiom, I agree that the number of occurrences is important - under 1,000 entries is not a lot, and common expressions will muster hundreds of thousands. But you should remember our earlier discussion of "stewed prunes" - not a massive Google-presence, yet a phrase that was known to several contributors. See also the bizarre slippery-doorknobs expression given!

    In the case of the 'Africa...' expression, it is definitely old-fashioned and of a kind most people would rather avoid today, for understandable and obvious reasons. What is interesting is that the few occurrences of the expression in question on Google do confirm the meaning I suggested and the way that the expression would tend to be used. Even though we are only talking about half-a-dozen occurrences, I do not think this allows us to say the expression does not exist! It may lead some to conclude that it is marginal and irrelevant, however. But, once more, this is relative.

    Strictly speaking, one sighting of, say, a previously unknown bird, is enough, if it is well documented, to attest to its existence - you do not need 175,000 entries in Google to confirm it all... To put it differently: When you want to prove that something exists, you are attempting to prove a positive, i.e. that one occurrence can be observed; when you are trying to prove a negative, you must prove that no one, anywhere, ever, has come across the thing in question - it is far more difficult, and no one has succeeded in this particular case, apart from the fact I can confirm that I have indeed heard the expression on more than one occasion...

    Well, enough sanakou for now (a nice one as concepts go!)...
     

    DaleC

    Senior Member
    I would like to add two points to my previous argument.

    The statement, "Africa begins at Calais", begs the question: which lands does Europe include, to the mind of a person saying such a thing? The British Isles only? Or the British Isles, the German lands, and Scandinavia, but somehow not France and Iberia?

    There is a tradition in Britain of some people (a minority, I suppose!) thinking of Britain as being outside Europe. This may be only half serious on their part, but by the same token, only half joking. Ten or 15 years ago, during one phase of the battle over whether the UK should join the European Monetary Union, an American news show interviewed a mild mannered young English vicar -- clearly a well educated person -- as insisting he didn't feel himself to be European.

    I think that these two points, taken together with the fact of how other Europeans used to view Spain, strongly establish the presumption that there is no way that a significant portion of the British people, even out of spite, could have developed the attitude toward France represented by "Africa begins at Calais". But after all, the point of adopting such a blatant sarcastic exaggeration as common wisdom would be to assert that it nevertheless expresses some sort of deep truth.

    This is why I concluded that this expression would have been current only among a small number of uneducated people, who by their nature wouldn't have really taken much interest in French or European affairs to begin with.
     

    PeterR

    New Member
    English - British
    DaleC

    Indeed it is not a joke that Britain is not part of Europe. Americans often refer to Britain as being in Europe (because Britain is on the European side of the Atlantic), and of course we are in the European Union, and we are Europeans in the sense that we are not Africans, Asians, or Americans.

    But Europe for many British people is a place of foreign languages and foreign customs. In many ways America is closer to us than Europe is, although of course we hate being taken over by the American version of the English language and American customs.

    So, for some of us (and it may or not be a minority nowadays), Britain is just Britain! We are, after all, an island (so very separate from a continent across which one can drive - on the wrong side of the road - of course), and though we are no longer in a situation of Empire, there are millions of people around the world whose culture is at least partly descended from us, so we are not entirely alone as just a small island of 60 million people.

    And I should have thought that the expression would have been used by educated, not uneducated people. Prejudiced, very likely, but not uneducated. Our educated people didn't use to be "politically correct", I'm afraid!

    Peter
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "The wogs start at Calais" didn't go out of fashion because it was a bad thing that only "uneducated" Britons said. Nobody says it any more because it's not true any more. Multiculturalism south of the Firth of Forth is as rampant as it used to be south of the Channel. Or am I thinking of the Firth of Clyde?
    .
     

    PeterR

    New Member
    English - British
    Britain is no longer homogeneous ethnically much further north than the Firths of Forth and Clyde, though we have only a few Africans or other dark-skinned people up here north of Inverness. But plenty of Lithuanians, Latvians, Poles, and Kurds. Makes a change from all the younger people moving away to the bright lights.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I am glad that Peter, being British too, could confirm that my posting was linked to: (a) a saying that exists; (b) a feeling that is deep-seated. Indeed, as Dalec concluded, many British people do not feel European at all, or rather regard (Continental) Europe as fairly alien. In conversation, when people say 'Britain and Europe', they mean 'Britain alongside Europe', Europe being perceived to be 'the Continent'. In other words, from a British perspective, Europe is very much Continental Europe and does not include the UK (or the Republic of Ireland, I should think). This is not about objective geographical realities but about the perception of those realities, which acquires a life of its own...
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    James Brandon said:
    I am glad that Peter, being British too, could confirm that my posting was linked to: (a) a saying that exists; (b) a feeling that is deep-seated. Indeed, as Dalec concluded, many British people do not feel European at all, or rather regard (Continental) Europe as fairly alien. In conversation, when people say 'Britain and Europe', they mean 'Britain alongside Europe', Europe being perceived to be 'the Continent'. In other words, from a British perspective, Europe is very much Continental Europe and does not include the UK (or the Republic of Ireland, I should think). This is not about objective geographical realities but about the perception of those realities, which acquires a life of its own...
    As an American of British descent who is conscious of my history, I concur for what it's worth.

    This attitude of apartness from Europe had its origin with the Separation by Henry VIII, and seemed divinely validated by the debacle of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Some would say the divorce of Britain from the Continental System was well-seated by then and truly began when that system failed the British Crown in upholding its claims in France before and during the 100 Years' War.

    Napoleon's dominance of Europe was another time when the separateness of Great Britain was driven home, especially when they almost single-handedly prevailed in the Napoleonic wars. Our sense of isolation from Europe was never more intense than during WWII, and that era also emphasized the ties across the Atlantic-- a political and cultural alignment that shows itself, for well or ill, in the current undertaking in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    I don't consider Britains "apartness" from Europe to be the same issue as the one evoked by "the wogs start at Calais," by the way. To me that is not so much a statement about Europe as about France. The Channel crossing has a terminus other than Calais or Boulogne, for people who are more central-European bound-- and the espression long antedates any significant presence of non-European populations in Germany and Scandinavia. I don't think "the wogs start at Oostende" quite works as a variant.
    .
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    I have just done a Google "Search within" (cf Amazon's "Search Inside" facility that scans the text of books etc for given words or phrases) and am glad to report that I have indeed found a reference to the phrase in question (with 'begin' and not 'start'). The reference in question implies that the expression was - once - quite commonly used.

    Details of the book, which appears to dwell on race relations between Blacks and Whites - I must admit I am not absolutely sure:

    "Cities of the Dead", by Joseph Roach

    Details of the quote, p21:

    "'Africa', runs the tired old British slur on the French, 'begins at Calais'."

    Book available on <<Online Booksellers>>

    I will add other references if they are of any interest
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    James Brandon,

    Bravo!

    I use uncle guegul a lot, but do not take absence from said uncle's domain as synonymous with absence from spoken English.

    I've checked a number of expressions I have heard many times, and found no sign of their existence in that wonderful cybernetic repository.

    I'm perfectly willing to trust a forero's word over guegul statistics. Just think, by this time tomorrow you may be able to google for 'guegul' and find this thread. And then some _____ will use the finding as 'proof' that it's an English word.

    Thank you,
    Cuchu
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Cuchuflete,

    I am sorry but I find your posting a little unfair, assuming I understood correctly what you are saying or implying. What you are saying is that finding a (any) word (or phrase) on Google (or elsewhere on the web) is no proof of its existence. This is of course absolutely true since many people who post up content on the web do not have it checked or edited by anyone but themselves (cf blogs etc.). They can invent words and then those words would appear thanks to an internet search. Etc.

    Your seemingly dismissive remark, however, needs correction on the following levels: (a) This forum is indeed monitored and edited by our beloved 'moderators'; (b) The reference I quoted can be found in a book of an academic nature, published in the US - it is not some sort of blog or random bulletin board; we may assume that the content was peer-reviewed; (c) Each item found on Google should be assessed for its own merits, of course, but I believe that the entry I found is relevant (and bear in mind that a book is only available on 'search inside' if the author and publisher agree...); (d) The process through which language evolves is also linked to the creation of new words, whether in 'real life' or on line, so you cannot dismiss so lightly as irrelevant the jargon and other new words that people may create or re-create over the internet.

    But of course your comments cut both ways, and it is obvious that not 'everything' can be found on Google or any other search engine. I discussed this issue before: the absence of something from Google does not prove it does not exist; its presence may point towards its existence.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    James,

    Sorry, I really wasn't clear. Please let me try again.

    I meant only to convey two thoughts:

    1. Bravo! to you for earlier stating that the phrase exists, whether or not google contains an example of it. I fully agree.
    Your word is good enough for me. That you later found corroboration is nice, but your initial claim was worthy, based on your own experience alone.


    2. As you pointed out so very well, if one doesn't bring a brain along for the ride, google can be misleading.

    Sorry I wasn't clear...my post was meant to be a compliment to you.

    regards,
    Cuchu
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Cuchuflete,
    No problem - we were at cross-purposes here. As we know, email and the internet can be treacherous, and this goes not only for Google and other search engines! And of course I agree that the internet and/or Google cannot be considered to be some sort of 'Bible' of what is and what is not...
    Take care
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    The expression 'Africa begins at Calais' is used in a recent Guardian article (April 2006), showing that the expression is indeed known: see link below.

    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/gla/comment/0,,1748807,00.html

    Obviously, and as would be expected (particularly in a left-of-center British newspaper such as The Guardian), the phrase is referred to as emblematic of old-fashioned British attitudes which, mercifully, have faded into disrepute and obscurity.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hello,

    One of my haughty students turned to me to help him grasp the idea of what the following phrase might mean. Since it appears to be beyond my comprehension, I am looking to you for help.

    If one asked me, I would say that the phrase must convey negative feelings towards black people; that's all I can infer.

    Thank you!


    PS No context provided!
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Hello,

    One of my haughty students turned to me to help him grasp the idea of what the following phrase might mean. Since it appears to be beyond my comprehension, I am looking to you for help.

    If one asked me, I would say that the phrase must convey negative feelings towards black people; that's all I can infer.

    Thank you!


    PS No context provided!
    It is one of many expression formerly used in the UK to describe foreigners in general and I don't think that this refers to blacks in particular. Nevertheless, it has a derogatory flavour and should be avoided.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    It is one of many expression formerly used in the UK to describe foreigners in general and I don't think that this refers to blacks in particular. Nevertheless, it has a derogatory flavour and should be avoided.
    Thank you, Porteño and envie de voyager, for your quick and concise replies!

    I do appreciate your help!:)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Passing over the offensive word, could someone explain why Calais? Is it because it is the point of entry to Europe, or the point of departure for England? Or some other thing?
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Passing over the offensive word, could someone explain why Calais? Is it because it is the point of entry to Europe, or the point of departure for England? Or some other thing?
    Precisely because it is the nearest part of Europe from which the UK traditionally considers itself separate. The famous headline a few years ago - 'Europe cut off by fog' - implyied that the most important place was the UK, Euroipe being secondary.
     

    Jeffers

    Member
    United Kingdom (English)
    Passing over the offensive word, could someone explain why Calais? Is it because it is the point of entry to Europe, or the point of departure for England? Or some other thing?
    Well... I know that there was a refugee centre at Sangatte near Calais. And a few years ago there were quite a few occasions when refugees were found trying to walk through the channel tunnel, as it led them directly to the UK / continental Europe. In any case, the word "nigger" in British English is only used to describe people of black origin, not foreigners in general.
     
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