土曜日, 5月 31, 2008

re イギリス, An apology to my students, friends and family

Dear all,
It is with my hat in my hand that I come to humbly beg your forgiveness for the way in which I have "set you straight" vis-a-vis the misleading, and for our friends in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, slightly offensive moniker that your language takes for my home country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As you will doubtless remember, where you may have mentioned the name of my country, or where I have regaled you with tales of growing up in the border marches and lost weekends among the mountains of Snowdonia, I will have probably set aside no few lungfuls to explain the misconception that seems to occur in the name イギリス (Igirisu) and its similarity to the word English, thereon pointing out that the English are native only to England, only one, though the largest and most populous, of the four home nations.
While I will stand by my discussion of the derivation of the word - as far as I know イギリス is a peculiarity in an otherwise accurate list of nations in approximations to their native tongue, フランス、ドイツ、イタリア and so on - I hereby retract the implication that it is somehow the fault of poor Japanese translation.
Whilst watching the excellent British TV show "QI", hosted by the brilliant Stephen Fry, it transpired that England and English were, up until about the 1930s and the development of Scots nationalism, used interchangeably with the name of the greater nation. Indeed, some prime ministers even went as far as to sign their names as "Prime Minister of England" when they meant the whole country.
So, for a friendly nation that so fastidiously takes efforts to use a nation's own pronunciation of its name, rather than simply changing it to fit one's own tongue ("Spain"), or making up a new name ("Burma"), or indeed just making a whole new country ("Iraq"), Japan should instead be applauded for its efforts.
I hope you can accept my apologies.
Dan

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