Briton, British, Brit.

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andersxman

Senior Member
Denmark/danish
I was told that the best choice when wanting to indicate someone with a British passport is "British". "He is British." I am reading an article in "The Guardian" that talks of "Britons". What difference is there between the two words - I figure that the differnence lies first and foremost at a "language register level"
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Briton is a noun. A Briton is a native of Britain.
    Britain is a noun too - but it is the island.
    British is an adjective.

    For convenience, these are not always used with precision.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    I just read that in the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence our Fore-Fathers misspelled the word British by spelling it Brittish. And I thought it was an alternate spelling.
     

    A90Six

    Senior Member
    England - English.
    river said:
    I just read that in the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence our Fore-Fathers misspelled the word British by spelling it Brittish. And I thought it was an alternate spelling.
    That's probably where all the confusion began! :D
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I couldn't answer this one! I've seen British and Brits (more informal I think) most often, though.
     

    prof d'anglais

    Senior Member
    It's not just British nationals living in Britain who are referred to as being British (adjective) or Brits (a contraction of British or Britons), British expatriates living abroad are often referred to as either expats or Brits (when a more derogatory form is not being used, such as “les rosbifs” in France).
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    "The British" is preferable from amongst these, unless you want to be punctilious about it only being an adjective (although it could be said to be short for "the British people"), in which case Britons is the only acceptable word. However, Britons is less popular in usage, I think, particularly in the plural, although it is useful in the singular as, since "British" is really an adjective, when used as a noun there is no singular, unless you want to count the abominable word "Britisher".

    Brit is very informal and different people have different views on it's acceptability, although it's not as bad as many nicknames for nationalities. It's used by the media a lot as an adjective prefix, e.g. Brit-pop.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    However, Britons is less popular in usage, I think, particularly in the plural, [...]
    Would you then say that the following sentence sounds formal (or maybe mock-formal)?
    I was reduced to attending the tea-dances with the ancient nut-brown Britons (thank God I can't dance) and watching imported videos.
    For clarification, the narrator, an Englishman, is in Spain in a hotel for tourists.

    I said "mock-formal" because the book it's quoted from is otherwise written in a fairly colloquial style.
     

    Mark1978

    Senior Member
    English
    Hi!
    What is the semantic difference between British and English? Which of the terms is more applicable for the people living within the borders of England?
    If a person is English then they are also British. So in strict terms both are equally acceptable.

    Just be careful not to refer to someone as English if you are not sure they live in England, they may be from Scotland, Wales, Ireland etc and you will have just offended them deeply!
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Do British people feel offended when an American refers to them as Brits?


    AngelEyes
     
    Keep in mind that the delegates at Philadelphia in 1776 had all grown up thinking of themselves as British. It should also be noted that the spelling "Brittish" in one place of the engrossed parchment copy of the Declaration is clearly a slip by the copyist, as the words "British" and "Britain", spelled with a single "t", are found elsewhere in the same document.
     

    Consimmer

    Member
    Malaysia, English and Malay Language
    Personally, I use 'British' to describe anyone from the British Isles, ie. English, Irish, Northern Irish, Scot, Welsh. I am sure though, there are people who would rather be referred to with more precision than 'British'.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    No, AngelEyes. To my mind "Brit" is just short for "British"...no more no less. Many British people (myself included) call themselves Brits. :)
    I dunno, Sniffrat, AngelEyes. My back always stiffens ever so slightly when someone non-British refers to Brits. (It's like when someone who's never been there insults my hometown: it's okay for me to do it because I spent 30,000 miserable years growing up there and so am in a position to criticize it.) I suspect it's more paranoia on my part than malevolence on the part of the speaker, but I always feel a bit like I'm being sneered at. I imagine it's the 'palliness' of Brit as opposed to Briton.
    To go back to the original question: it seems to me that the major difference between Brit and Briton is that you hear the former a lot more often than the latter. Which is a shame. In my opinion:(
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    "British" - innocuous
    "a Briton" - sounds odd: like a throwback to the times when the Britons fought against the Romans
    "a Brit": slangy. Best used only by Brits...
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Thank you, guys, for all the differing viewpoints.

    I like calling you Brits. It's, well...sort of cute. :p

    So, Ewie, please don't take offense with me. The reason I would hesitate to use Briton is because it sounds just like Britain and is confusing because of that.

    Curiously, I would refer to others in a more specific way, as the Scots/Scotsmen, the Irish/Irishmen, the Welsh/Welshmen, etc.

    Only those born in England would I call Brits. Maybe that's just me.

    AngelEyes
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    One Brit, two Brits.

    Like many short forms or slang terms, Brit is both a term of affection and a term of abuse.

    As ewie and Loob have suggested, British people know when using Brit is acceptable. Non-natives are very unlikely to get this right, even when they are convinced they are following the lead of natives. Even when they think they are using Brit as a term of affection they are likely to be considered presumptuous and over-familiar.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    What would be its singular?
    I don't expect a British is used, or is it?

    Tom
    No, Tom, the singular of the British is (technically) a Briton. But see Loob's and AngelEyes' posts above for possible reasons why this word is in decline.

    A Britisher could be used, but not often if at all these days.
    Can't remember the last time I heard someone use a Britisher ...

    'Presumptuous and over-familiar' ~ you've summed up all my waffle in 2 words, P ~ thanks.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks ewie - I've just thought of two examples that characterise this.

    Take yourself to Google and search for brits abroad

    Then try searching for brits out

    Now, if you are confident that you fully understand which of these your audience will understand, and you are content that this is what you want to say, go ahead.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    One Brit, two Brits.

    Like many short forms or slang terms, Brit is both a term of affection and a term of abuse.

    As ewie and Loob have suggested, British people know when using Brit is acceptable. Non-natives are very unlikely to get this right, even when they are convinced they are following the lead of natives. Even when they think they are using Brit as a term of affection they are likely to be considered presumptuous and over-familiar.
    I've noticed this about Britons. (That feels very forced to use that.) They don't like premature over-familiarity. Their comfort level for social intimacy is different than Americans, in general.

    So even if I use the term Brit while liking it, liking them, liking England and the Queen, it's not going to fly with the natives because I'll come across as an overly-aggressive American.

    Okay, then. I won't use it unless I know the person more than a little, or I add a long explanation of affection as I point out why I used it.

    I'm wondering if you Britons called me a Yankee if I'd be annoyed or bothered. I'd probably smile, at the very least, and not take offense at all, unless you were obnoxious in many other ways other than just referring to me this way.

    Once again, our mindset rules what comes out of our mouths and processes through our brains.

    And Panj, those links are golden. Thanks, mate.

    AngelEyes
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Panj,

    I'd only draw the line at being called "...that damn Yankee."

    Even that would just make me laugh.

    Thank you, everyone, for this enlightening discussion.

    AngelEyes
     
    Hmm. Here is the first line of a story from today's issue of that source for impeccable, immaculate modern English usage, the Sun:
    MORE than 80 per cent of Brits think Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton would be a good addition to the Royal Family, a poll showed last night.
    Now, I can think of lots of things to call the Sun, but would "presumptuous and over-familiar" be among them? :D
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hmm. Here is the first line of a story from today's issue of that source for impeccable, immaculate modern English usage, the Sun:

    Now, I can think of lots of things to call the Sun, but would "presumptuous and over-familiar" be among them? :D
    GWB, you seem to be missing the point completely, and no doubt deliberately. For the Sun to refer to British people as Brits is entirely acceptable. Please read the explanations given.

    If the New York Times used the same terminology it would be insulting.

    I exaggerate the difference to make the point, but surely you can see that something that is used as a term of affection inside the group can be heard as an insult when used by someone outside the group. There is no doubt, in this context, that the Sun is inside the group.

    I'm off to wash my brain free from all consideration of agreeing with the Sun, but please don't let that colour your appreciation of the point.
     
    GWB, you seem to be missing the point completely, and no doubt deliberately. For the Sun to refer to British people as Brits is entirely acceptable. Please read the explanations given.

    If the New York Times used the same terminology it would be insulting.

    I exaggerate the difference to make the point, but surely you can see that something that is used as a term of affection inside the group can be heard as an insult when used by someone outside the group. There is no doubt, in this context, that the Sun is inside the group.

    I'm off to wash my brain free from all consideration of agreeing with the Sun, but please don't let that colour your appreciation of the point.
    Any missing of the point is entirely deliberate, Panj. ;)

    The Sun is not my usual reading material (heck, I am embarassed to admit that I know it exists...) but I happened to stumble upon that article no more than five minutes after reading the latest in this thread. To see that you now find yourself in a language-use group that also contains the editorial staff of the Sun is an unintended Yuletide surprise, which I will try very hard not to smile at.:cool:

    I also note that if the Grey Lady, aka the New York Times, (which uses honorifics to refer to everyone, and so habitually refers to Posh Spice as "Ms. Beckham") used the terminology, it would be less insulting than surprising -- although it must be admitted that it is a surprise (one hopes it is not an insult) one might have had just last week, when the Times had an editorial titled "Bested by the Brits."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/opinion/23sun2.html
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    And so the sun never sets on yet another AE/BE difference. As noted at length in another WR EO thread, most yanks do not object to being called yanks.

    Caveat: Do not call anyone in Boston or points north a Yankee (as in the NYC baseball team) unless you want your life shortened.

    Interesting contrast: Brits may call other Brits Brits. Yanks do not typically refer to other Yanks as Yanks. It's what many Brits call us. <scratching head in bewilderment smiley>
     

    marquess

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I would say technically the singular of 'The British' is 'A Briton', but in Britain today there is a big difference between those who hold British nationality and those who are original Britons by blood. Both of these are a big deal to a lot of people. Ancient Britons, from whom the name comes, (and my exact historical knowledge here is shaky) were probably Brithonic Celts who shared their language with what are now the Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons on the continent. For certain others who wish to differentiate themselves from political Britain today (some Scots and Irish for instance - even though by blood and language they may have more in common with the Brithonic Celts than the Normans and Saxons), the label 'British' is unwelcome, and for the immigrant population who are proud to have British nationality, but have no Ancient Briton blood, the opposite is true.
    Americans (and probably Australians, Canadians etc.) like to talk about people from Great Britain as 'Brits', and most of us know it, and would refer to ourselves as such talking to them, but it is always necessary to be aware of these possible sensitivities and who you are talking to when using the term. Because of this it is easier to generalise about 'the British' in the Geo-political sense, but the term 'Briton' seems to be falling into disuse except in the more specific sense and seems to be being replaced by more tactful phrases like 'British national', 'British person', 'British individual' when talking about persons who inhabit the geo-political region, came from it, and who are proud of it, but if you know better it is always safer to talk about the 'UK inhabitant', 'Scotsman, Englishman, or Irishman' when you go singular.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Redirected from this thread.

    Personally, I use 'British' to describe anyone from the British Isles, ie. English, Irish, Northern Irish
    Hmm....

    Irish people are most certainly not British. Do not refer to us as such or else you will most likely provoke heated outbursts ;)

    For NI, you should check if the person you're referring to considers themselves British or not, otherwise again, such usage will result in upset if not downright outrage :)

    The word Brit in (southern) Ireland often carries pretty negative connotations attached: "Brits out", "Fucking Brits", "Brits are at it again (usually in reference to hooliganism or loutish behaviour in Spain)" etc. are some examples of where it is employed.

    I'd stick with British and avoid Brit altogether unless the context is highly informal, comedic, and/or one wishes to offend.
     
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    Wayland

    Banned
    English.
    This in itself in the wrong place could cause an awful lot of embarassment or distress.
    Define "British Isles". I don't think there is an official ruling.
    The word(s) have become so politicised that one is treading on eggshells ( as one so often is in these PC times).
    On the face of it "British " appears perfectly neutral but as so many immigrants delight in thus nomenclaturising themselves the indigenous populations retreat into their perceived tribal ethnicities and prefer to call themselves English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish.
    I personally hate the "word" brit. :)

    Dear nos 25 and 26.Don't be ashamed of reading lowbrow tabloids.You have to read widely to gauge which way the wind is blowing languagewise,although it has to be said that the London-centric Sun is derided in certain areas by its target audience in the UK and is held in ridicule for these and similar headlines in the past.


    Without a wrong how do you judge a right?
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello, Wayland.

    I, for one, am an enormous admirer of Sun-headline-writers.

    Reverting to topic, I still think, as I said before, that "Brit" is a term best used by Brits.

    That said, I'd be happy to see it used by anyone who didn't see it as "cute:eek:".
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Can't remember the last time I heard someone use a Britisher ...
    I think this is an American term, isn't it?

    Also, if you are referring to the Brit Award, you have no choice but to use Brit, do you? But I take Loob's point - it's a term I use with some care.

    These are such troublesome terms. I wouldn't use Brit or British or Britain to refer to someone from Eire, because they don't refer to the British Isles but to (Great) Britain.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Cuch raised a very salient point about the difference between Yank and Yankee. As a son of the South, I agree that the first is inoffensive (once the initial shock of hearing it for the first time wears off), but Yankee is more than offensive, it's fighting words.

    I'm not being facetious here. In my experience northerners (to put it politely) are oblivious to just how demeaning an insult this word is. The Yankees invaded, conquered and ravaged a large region of the U.S., just as the English did when they consolidated their rule in the UK. When an ignorant American tourist assumes everyone they meet in that country is "English" and calls an Irishman by that name, I can empathize with the bristling reaction. All I have to do is imagine that some ignorant British tourist had called me a Yankee.

    Speaking of conquests, weren't the people the Romans conquered north of the Channel called Bretons? Yes, I know that term refers to people from Brittany-- Bretagne in French, to distinguish it from Grande Bretagne. Seems to me that at one time they were the same people.

    So where did Briton even come from? I know it goes back as far as Arne.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I think this is an American term, isn't it?

    Also, if you are referring to the Brit Award, you have no choice but to use Brit, do you? But I take Loob's point - it's a term I use with some care.

    These are such troublesome terms. I wouldn't use Brit or British or Britain to refer to someone from Eire, because they don't refer to the British Isles but to (Great) Britain.
    Troublesome indeed! Eire means Ireland in the Irish language therefore we reserve such usage for that language, in English the name of the state (and the island) is Ireland - we don't accept the use of the British Isles either, after all (the Republic of) Ireland is not British :)

    foxfirebrand said:
    Speaking of conquests, weren't the people the Romans conquered north of the Channel called Bretons? Yes, I know that term refers to people from Brittany-- Bretagne in French, to distinguish it from Grande Bretagne. Seems to me that at one time they were the same people.
    In a way, yes they were. The Bretons fled Britain in the 6th century to escape the Anglo-Saxon invasion and settled in the area of France now known as Brittany. Although Celts, they were different from the native French Celts, the Gauls.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Just as a matter of interest, Pedro, what is the official Irish name for the islands that the Brits call the British Isles?
     
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