‘These Islands’


Sir, – The word “British”, as used for example in the term British Isles, must have, for many people, an association with colonial possession, otherwise why was the British Commonwealth renamed the Commonwealth of Nations? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

Sir, – I would like to ask those readers who object to the use of the British Isles when it refers to Ireland if they feel Lancastrians should , in a similar way, object to swimming in the Irish Sea when they go for their summer dip in Blackpool. Similarly, should Brazilians object to being labelled South Americans, or Canadians North Americans? I would ask these readers to not get too hung up on geographical descriptions. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – When your correspondents have agreed a suitable replacement for “British Isles” to designate the western European islands, I invite them to turn their minds to the equally vexing issue of how to rebrand the country sometimes misleadingly referred to as “America”, but which in fact occupies less than 25 per cent of the land mass of the Americas. One of your correspondents usefully suggested a recipe for resolution of the “British Isles” conundrum inspired by Macedonia and the idea commends itself here too – “The Former American Colonies of the British Crown”, perhaps? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The “Scots-Irish-Anglo-Welsh-Manx Sea” anyone? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – John A Murphy (February 7th) suggests that the “only objection” to the extension of the term “the British Isles” to this island comes from those with “a postcolonial chip on their shoulder”. Not so. What about those who simply prefer accuracy?

If your correspondent’s assertion is valid, however, is it not equally arguable that those with no objection to the contested title are afflicted with a postcolonial mentality? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The ongoing discussion regarding the usage of the term British Isles shows the extent to which we still are in a postcolonial mindset. We have now gone beyond the inferiority complex and, in our efforts to show how relaxed we are now with our erstwhile overlords, we embrace all things British, including a term which is simply inaccurate.

Since when is it okay to use a term which is politically inaccurate and justify it by claiming that is is a geographical descriptor? Parts of northeastern Germany and northwestern Poland share very similar characteristics; however no Pole would consent to the use of Pomerania to describe it, and no German would dare to use it either as it dates from a time when this part of modern Poland was in Germany. Why would we accept a similar situation in Ireland? Europe’s borders have moved considerably over the last few hundred years and old terms fall out of usage when they lose their political validity; the same must apply to the British Isles.

Australia and New Zealand have much in common yet there is no suggestion to call both islands the Australian Isles.

Let’s not get so caught up in postcolonial “maturity” that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. The term to describe these two islands is quite simply Ireland and Britain (or, but not automatically so, Britain and Ireland). Apologies to the weather forecasters! – Yours, etc,