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Thread: What is Englishness?

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    Cricket Web Staff Member / Global Moderator Neil Pickup's Avatar
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    What is Englishness?

    Serious please. On Exeweb we have, for once, managed to get a thread into a serious, thought-out debate without spiralling into the gutter of punning and sex jokes. I thought I'd quote a few points here and see what you think:

    What is it that defines the English identity and the English nationality? I know I'd be pushed to come up with a decent paragraph to do so, hyperbolic or otherwise.
    I have no idea! But it's an important question. It seems all too likely we're going to go the way of a 'mini America' which is sad seeing as we gave the world an amazing language, some incredible scientists, writers, explorers, artists, engineers.. The rest of the world caught up 80 years ago and we're slowly living further and further in the past... The second world way ended over 60 years ago but the way some of the tabloids carry on when we play Germany you'd think the d-day landings happened last september!
    The general lack of consciousness of an identity for modern Englanders is very much tied up with our historical 'superiority complex' and the inability to claim a modern role that binds us together. Communities and families just seem to get further apart. While people are only too ready to condemn the divisive effects of religion in any form, drinking till you're comatose is funny and cool. We've lost the love somewhere it seems to me, and while there's a lot more awareness these days on subjects like race and class, showing feelings is still very much OUT in my experience. We think Americans are vulgar and annoying but sometimes I prefer the way they just say what they are feeling without needing an invitation card first.
    [We gave the world] a language that isn't even our own - an amalgam of Celtic remnants, French, Norse, Saxon, Angle, Jute, Frisian... just looking at a scattered list of place names distills the non-singularity of our culture. Whilst that's not necessarily a bad thing - and heck, the language today is growing still from fragments of Empire, new-generation immigrants and native slang, it does sum up quite neatly what, for me, is one of the underlying issues that makes defining "Englishness" so difficult.

    Our favourite curse words are almost universally of Saxon root, and any thorough analysis of the Arthurian legend connects its roots heavily with Gwynedd: and its medieval embellishments entirely with a cleric currying favour with Norman gentry, simultaneously editing history to connect French invaders with a legitimate claim to the crown. Then there's the trunk-road infrastructure that dates back to the Roman conquest, Watling Street, Ermine Street and the Fosse Way.

    It's almost a minefield of contradiction to celebrate a country born of invasion, amalgamation and, to be brutal, interbreeding, and in the same sentence question the endurance of such images in the face of further immigration and further change. Perhaps this dichotomy, one that has undoubtedly recurred throughout history, culminating through battles at Watling Street, Mount Badon, Edington, Ashingdon, Stamford Bridge, Hastings and Bosworth, to name but seven: to be pre-eminent, stand tall once last time, and then proceed into history?
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    Soutie Langeveldt's Avatar
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    Going down the pub for a pint and a ciggy..

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    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend Matteh's Avatar
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    A constant need to not support anyone in sport by just saying 'they'll lose anyway' then be proved right when they do finish second, perfect example being the weekend last year with the Rugby final and the F1 finale.
    Last edited by Matteh; 25-03-2008 at 03:33 PM.
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    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    Or there's the glorious defeat approach, see WC98 "10 Brave Lions One Stupid Boy"

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    Soutie Langeveldt's Avatar
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    Nah, in all seriousness.. Village cricket.. Nothing else comes close and nothing beats it

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    Englishman BoyBrumby's Avatar
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    It's a knotty one all right.

    I will say we do seem to be the invisible ethnicity, possibly because due to America's cultural hegemony WASP is still the presumed "norm" (the default setting I suppose) from which other races & religions diverge. One often hears talk of Irish-Americans or Italian-Australians, but do you ever hear of English-Australians?
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    Hall of Fame Member TT Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langeveldt View Post
    Nah, in all seriousness.. Village cricket.. Nothing else comes close and nothing beats it
    Village cricket is the sort of imagery of 'Englishness' one would expect in a Hugh Grant movie or from some Swede basher.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Being British >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> being English in terms of importance.

    Spoken like a true Welshman of course.
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    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    dwta

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    Englishman BoyBrumby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Being British >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> being English in terms of importance.

    Spoken like a true Welshman of course.
    See that's part of the problem for me. Some English people (i.e. people born & raised in England) take their "nationality" from celtic antecedents. Richard unironically calls himself a " true Welshman" despite being palpably English by accent & upbringing. There's a conflation between Englishness & Britishness that doesn't seem to exist with Scots or Welsh.

    Another part of the problem may be English (the language) itself. Because it's so much the lingua franca, other nationalities all seem to use it communicate with the rest of the world (with the slight exception of the French, perhaps), but retain their own identities by also keeping their own languages. Because we don't have another language to fall back on, our identity as being distinct from Americans might be reduced to sporting loyalty in a generation or two. Regional accents are already being homogenised.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoyBrumby View Post
    See that's part of the problem for me. Some English people (i.e. people born & raised in England) take their "nationality" from celtic antecedents. Richard unironically calls himself a " true Welshman" despite being palpably English by accent & upbringing. There's a conflation between Englishness & Britishness that doesn't seem to exist with Scots or Welsh.
    I count myself as Welsh because most of my ancestry is Welsh. I also count myself as a Yorkshireman and a Geordie where applicable, due to upbringing. Don't count myself as Devonian in any way, shape or form despite having just passed the point at which I had lived down here for half my life, and despite being positively alarmed at hearing myself on a couple of recordings of late and noticing that when I was speaking casually there was a definate Devonian twang in there.

    Honestly, though, British is all the same thing to me. Only time one or the other of English\Scottish\Welsh\Irish ever matters is in the Six Nations.
    Last edited by Richard; 25-03-2008 at 04:08 PM.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Burgey's Avatar
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    English people seem to have a curious habit (inherited by Australians I have to say) of apologising for things that aren't their fault, eg: "Is the weather fine?" "Sorry mate, it's raining".

    I read that in one of Bill Bryson's books, and I've noticed since that it's pretty true.
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  14. #14
    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Big difference between apologising for and being sorry about for mine.

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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend Matteh's Avatar
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    Mainly the spelling tbf.

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