Ignorant Politician

Yes, yes, I know, it\’s not a surprise to find that a politician is simply ignorant of the facts. Pete Wishart MP, with a message on Iain Dale\’s blog:

Years of deep felt grievances and a sense of growing injustice is gripping the inhabitants of Auld Albion, and up with it they are no longer prepared to put.

The problem is that he\’s using Albion to refer to England. Which is the one place it cannot be used to mean:

Albion (called Alouion by Ptolemy) is the most ancient name of Great Britain, though sometimes used to refer to the United Kingdom, or specifically (incorrectly) to England.

Occasionally it instead refers to only Scotland, whose name in Gaelic is Alba (and similarly, in Irish, and Yr Alban in Welsh[1]).

No wonder the nation\’s in a bad way when one of those who would rule it cannot even get the name correct.

10 thoughts on “Ignorant Politician”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Ancient Greek “Pretanike”, was used to refer to the whole British Isles, and “Albion”, in one form or another, to the big island – Britain. Surely “Great Britain” is the name of a political unit, not a geographical unit, and makes no sense at any time before the existence of Bretagne/Britanny from which it needs to be distinguished. By “British Isles” I mean the geographical unit that contains the political units of the UK, Man and the Irish Republic.

  2. He really ought to know better as “Alba” was the anthem of his former employer, the excellent band Runrig. (Their singer, Donnie Munro, is also in politics now.)

  3. The name of the big island is “Great Britain”, hence “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. For example, cars from Great Britain (E, W, S) have a ‘GB’ sticker when abroad and cars from Northern Ireland have a different one (‘NI’ I think).

    It is the word ‘British’ that has no particular legal definition or meaning.

  4. Actually, if you check maps from the 15 Century, you’ll note that Great Britain was the name given to the Isle we know as GB, while Ireland was known as Little Britain.

    I guess it sounds comical in today’s popular culture, but it is where I’ve always understood the name to come from.

    With regard to Albion, prior to Roman times, it was said that Albion was the Gaelic name given to the whole of the British islesand used by the locals prior to being forced Northwards . At the same time, the name Prydain was the name given to Britain by the Brethonic Celts – who eventually ended up in Wales and Cornwall.

    Seems to me that for this scotish MP to call England, Albion is misleading to say the least!

  5. You are using Wikipedia as a reference?

    Since you are a writer seeking to criticise a politician, I would have thought that you would have used a more authoritative source like, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary:

    Great Britain. Phr. perfidious Albion, rendering F. la perfide Albion, a rhetorical expression for ‘England’, with reference to her alleged treacherous policy towards foreigners.
    The phr. ‘la perfide Albion’ is said to have been first used by the Marquis de Ximenès (1726-1817) (N. & Q. (1932) CLXII. 107/2).

    c900 tr. Bæda’s Hist. (1890) I. I. 24 Breoton is garsecges ealond, æt wæs iu geara Albion haten. c1205 Layamon’s Brut (1847) 1243 Albion hatte at lond. 1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) II. 5 Firste is ilond hite Albion, as it were e white lond. c1399 CHAUCER Purse l. 22 in Wks. (1894) I. 406 O conquerour of Brutes Albioun. a1592 GREENE Fr. Bacon (1594) sig. E2v, As if that Edward gaue me Englands right, And richt me with the Albion diadem. 1593 SHAKES. 2 Hen. VI I. iii. 48 Is this the Gouernment of Britaines Ile? And this the Royaltie of Albions King? 1605 Lear III. ii. 91 Then shal the Realme of Albion, come to great confusion. [1653 J. BOSSUET uvres (1816) XI. 469 L’Angleterre, ah! la perfide Angleterre, que le rempart de ses mers rendoit inaccessible aux Romains.] 1713 POPE Windsor-For. 5 When Albion sends her eager Sons to War. 1757 GRAY Progr. Poesy II. st. iii in Odes 9 When Latium had her lofty spirit lost, They sought, oh Albion! next thy sea-encircled coast. 1841 W. M. THACKERAY in Fraser’s Mag. June 711/2 Ferocious yells of hatred against perfidious Albion were uttered by the liberal French press. [1846 R. FORD Gatherings fr. Spain iv. 37 If there be a thing which ‘La perfide Albion’, ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, dislikes,..it is a bankrupt.] 1850 WORDSW. Prel. (1926) x. 239 Since I had seen the surge Beat against Albion’s shore. 1903 A. MCNEILL Egregious English 11 The French dislike of perfidious Albion may be reckoned to a great extent an intermittent matter. 1941 H. G. WELLS You can’t be too Careful III. viii. 146 There I wasa lovely crossingsaying Adieu to the white cliffs of Albion. 1958 Observer 18 May 9/4 He [sc. General de Gaulle] felt it to be essential..that he should maintain a proud and haughty demeanour towards ‘perfidious Albion’.


  6. Interesting. I always took Albion to be shorthand for England and Wales, with Scotland referred to separately as Alba.

  7. @ Mark – no, the ISO code for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is GB; this applies to cars from Great Britain and from Northern Ireland, as well as to all other international applications. It’s also why the UKoGBaNI athletics team is referred to as “Team GB”.

    (the Internet is an exception, because the .uk TLD was set up before international organisations were aware of its existence)

  8. no, no, no. Team GB doesn’t include NI. In the Olympics you’ll find that NI and Irish Rep. compete for the same team: Ireland.

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