by Frank Schnittger
Wed Sep 11th, 2019 at 09:31:41 AM EST
For some years now I have spent part of the year in Spain to get away from Ireland's long winter climate, enjoy a change of scenery, indulge a childhood passion for living beside the sea, and experience Spain's many other virtues. To my shame, my acquisition of the Spanish language has been slow, to put in mildly. I learned German and French in school, and so lack a grammatical foundation.
But undoubtedly the main reason is sheer laziness. I can get by with relatively little Spanish to conduct everyday affairs, and I have chosen to spend my intellectual energies elsewhere. My excuse is that I am still learning English, which is often literally true.
Writing, as I do, for a multi-lingual community, this is often a source of embarrassment, as many here whose native language is not English, can command it just as well as I do. I console myself by thinking I may have a better grasp of English's many idiomatic idiosyncrasies, and often feel the need to explain or link to explanations of the finer nuances of particular terms.
I include below, for your delectation, a glossary of some English language terms whose precise meaning may not be immediately obvious to non native speakers. Please feel free to use the comments to add your own definitions of terms which may have caused you some puzzlement in the past. Political discourse is often as much about obfuscation as clarification, but as writers and commentators our job is at least partly to eliminate such terminological in-exactitudes where possible.
The Continent: Europe minus the "British Isles", or at least that part of Europe visible from the Cliffs of Dover on a clear day. Hence "Fog in the Channel, Continent cut off..."
The Mainland: The "British Isles", specifically the British Isles minus surrounding Islands (including Ireland)
The EU: The Common Market (The British claim they only ever joined a Common Market and that the European Union is an example of mission creep by scheming and meddling Brussels Bureaucrats. (This rather ignores the fact that the first line of the 1957 Treaty of Rome is "DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe... " and the Common Market is only one aspect of that determination listed in the Treaty).
The UK: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and N. Ireland (formally Ireland, before 1922)
John Bull: A metaphoric name for Great Britain, more specifically England
John Bull's other Island: A satirical reference to Ireland as defined by its relationship to Britain and originally the title of a play by George Bernard Shaw.
The North: Northern Ireland
The south: The Republic of Ireland, which actually contains Ireland's most northerly county, Donegal.
Ulster: A term often used by British and Unionist commentators as synonymous with N. Ireland, even though N. Ireland only contains 6 of Ulster's 9 counties. It's use in this way causes great offence in Ireland, as the British do not have sovereignty over the other three counties of Ulster: Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, which are part of the Republic. It therefore highlights Britain's often careless ignorance of Ireland and rubs in the sore point (for Irish nationalists) that Britain does control the other 6 counties. Those 6 counties were chosen for inclusion in N. Ireland by the 1922 boundaries commission so as to provide the Ulster protestant unionist community with a safe majority to control Northern Ireland affairs. Had all 9 counties been included, Catholics and nationalists might soon have formed the majority - see Gerrymandering.
The Good Friday Agreement 1998: So called more popularly in Ireland, although its official title is "The Belfast Agreement". It actually consists of two agreements; one between most of the political parties in N. Ireland (excluding the DUP) guaranteeing "equality of esteem" for both the nationalist and unionist traditions in N. Ireland, and setting up a number of devolved institutions such as a representative assembly and an Executive to govern most of N. Ireland's affairs. The DUP reluctantly came on board following the 2006 "St. Andrew's Agreement" although continuing disagreements have resulted in those institutions having become dormant for almost 3 years now. The Agreement also set up North-South, and East West Institutions, which have been consistently downgraded and disrespected by unionist and British politicians.
The second agreement is an international Treaty between the United Kingdom and Ireland, lodged with the United Nations, determining that the sovereignty of N. Ireland can only be changed by a referendum of its people, and appointing both governments as guarantors of that agreement. Often dismissed as of little importance in the UK, it actually required the agreement of all the people of Ireland North and south, in two referenda which were carried by large majorities (71% in N. Ireland, 94% in the Republic). The referendum in the south fundamentally changed the Irish Constitution by deleting Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution which had claimed sovereignty over the whole territory of the Island of Ireland. This was seen as a major concession in the south, was instrumental in helping to bring an end to the 30 year "Troubles" in the North, and it is therefore a source of great annoyance when it is dismissed as a minor technicality to be overcome by technological means by British and unionist commentators.
Gerrymandering: Although the term originates in the US, it has a long and dishonourable tradition in Ireland, and particularly in Northern Ireland, which was specifically created to enable a protestant minority achieve majority status in the North East of Ireland. Constituencies within N. Ireland were also specifically designed to minimise Catholic/nationalist representation and the franchise limited to rate paying property owners. Given that Catholic/Nationalists were also discriminated against in the provision of jobs and public housing, this overwhelmingly dis-enfranchised Catholic/Nationalists.
Backstop: Originally a cricketing term for a player positioned at the back of a cricket pitch to prevent the opposition scoring easy runs, it has come to mean, in a political context, a device or insurance policy to ensure that the Ireland/N. Ireland border, opened and de-militarized after the Good Friday Agreement, never becomes closed again, and thus a barrier to all Ireland economic integration and a target for nationalist agitation or terrorist action.
"Our friends in Europe". A Brexiteer term of endearment referring to people in Europe they claim to be negotiating with but who they actually would prefer to just lie down and die. The term is a sleight of hand to disguise the fact that they actual don't have any "friends in Europe" unless you are referring to the maître d' of their favourite 5* restaurant in Tuscany or the Provence who ensures that they always get their favourite table - for a generous tip...
"Non": French word meaning we wish these Brits would stop farting around and get on with whatever it is they want to get on with, but actually we're quite enjoying their utter confusion so while we must formally say no to any further entanglement with British politics, of course we will say yes if there is any possibility of prolonging their agony...
Brexitology: The science of pandering to base emotions, creating illusions, and selling people down the river...
Brexit: A form of disaster politics where the elite destroy all democratic safeguards, concentrate power in smaller and smaller circles, while promising to give the people back control...
DUPE A member of the Democratic Unionist Party Europhobic wing. (N.B. We are all Eurosceptics, critical of much the EU has and has not been doing. But to call sworn enemies of the very concept of a European Union "Eurosceptics" is an insult. They are blind fanatics and credulous cretins ignorant of European history).
Fait accompli - French expression meaning a deed already accomplished and therefore something you can do nothing about. What Bozzer would like to produce re Brexit.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson aka BoJo, Bozzer, Man of the people, Alex to his friends, Boris to the plebs, darling of the tabloid media, Prime Minister despite never having won a vote in the Commons, champion of democracy, scourge of the European Union, Churchill's biographer and successor, the most intelligent man in England according to my Tory friends. Oh, and a congenital liar.