An English bee in my Scottish-British-European bonnet
This morning’s “Call Kaye” phone-in programme on BBC Radio Scotland featured a discussion of whether Friday’s Royal Wedding had made Scottish listeners feel more proud to be British. Or not.
Many of the callers enjoyed and felt their Britishness reinforced by the event. Some objected to the inclusion in the service of the hymn “Jerusalem” and its reference to “England’s green and pleasant land” (my italics). Others to the description of William and Catherine by one of the BBC’s TV presenters as the future “King and Queen of England”.
This whole English instead of British business has annoyed me for as long as I can remember. When I lived in Italy I got thoroughly fed up with Italians calling me “inglese”.
I got even more fed up with English colleagues at the British Embassy in Rome referring to the Embassy as the “Ambasciata inglese” when speaking to Italian callers, or asking me if I was going home to England for the holidays. How could Italians get it right if the institution representing the UK in Italy was getting it so badly wrong?
Even Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who usually does get it right, referred recently to the British Foreign Minister as “il collega inglese William Hague” (having first used “britannico” in the same document).
This caused me a translation dilemma. Should I grit my British teeth and translate faithfully, or engage in some translatorly diplomacy and use “British”? I chose the latter. Non just to save Frattini’s face in the English-language version, but because I just could not bring myself to write “English” in that context.
I normally contact the Ministry’s press office about these slips, by the way — pointing out errors in the source text is one of the ways that translators bring added value.
For the record. I watched and greatly enjoyed the Wedding, and felt proud to be British. So did my daughter, who’s half-Italian. She said “I really hope Scotland never separates from the UK. I’d hate not to be a part of all that, and to feel that London didn’t ‘belong’ to me”. I feel the same way. I feel a wee bit Scottish (of Irish origin, but I don’t feel Irish at all), very British, and European too. And I detest the anti-Englishness that some Scots feel it’s quite legitimate to express.
My hackles did rise, however, at that line of “Jerusalem”, although I can understand why it’s a favourite with the newly-weds — it’s a very stirring hymn. There’s talk of changing the offending line to “Albion’s green and pleasant land” but that would deprive the English of what is considered by many to be their unofficial anthem. The Royal Wedding website includes a page on the music chosen for the event:
The music has a largely British theme. The Couple have put considerable thought into selecting the music, and their choices blend traditional music with some newly commissioned pieces.
I’d love to hear what you think about these issues of national identity. Have you got a national bee in your bonnet?
Filed under: Language, Translation | 12 Comments
Tags: Britishness, Franco Frattini, Jerusalem, Language, national identity, Royal Wedding, Translation