I have a new computer. It’s American and it can’t spell.
That’s probably not fair. It’s an American computer and it can spell in American but I am English and it’s frustrating. So, after adding more ‘u’s than was good a girl, I decided to go in search of something to change the language settings. I found a setting called ‘British English’ and, without really giving the matter much thought, I clicked on it. This morning, when it informed me that ‘tantalizing’ is spelt with an ‘s’, I started to get a bit cross.
I don’t mean particularly that my computer’s spell check cannot cope with the vagaries of English. Let’s face it. It’s not the most complicated language in the world for nothing. (Actually, it might not even be that but that’s a different posting.) No. What has annoyed me is that we have to define English in terms of being British. British English. Surely that’s ridiculous. It’s English. Pure and simple. It’s a language all of it’s own.
But then nothing seems to be truly English any more. The Scots are fiercely proud and the Irish identity is pretty secure. Even little Wales knows what it stands for. And then there’s us, hiding quietly behind the mantle of Britain hoping that no one will notice that we’re there or, which is infinitely worse, apologising. I know we have stuff to apologise for. Imperialism perhaps wasn’t our finest hour and no other nation tries to wear socks and sandals in public. We drink too much, speak loudly to foreigners, insist on showing far too much flesh when the sun comes out and eat food from photo menus. But I’m sure that’s no worse than any other nation. We all have our faults.
I’m not convinced that Britain is any good for England. Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost our sense of national identity – the things that make us English. I don’t mean all the silly things that I’ve listed but the important stuff. True grit in the face of adversity, a desire to explore and discover, scientific endeavour, the stiff upper lip, stopping for tea in the middle of the afternoon. Ok. I know. I’ve strayed back into silly but you take my point.
And the worst thing of all is that even as I type, I’m worrying about the response that I’ll get. There’s a fairly good chance that by blowing the trumpet for England I will cross a line for some readers into some vague and unidentifiable xenophobia which should be only spoken of in hushed tones. But why is it unacceptable to be proud to be English but not Scottish, or French or German? I don’t get it.
I might write to Apple and tell them that there’s no such thing as ‘British English’. I doubt they’ll listen to me but they might learn how to spell tantalize.