Great Britain/Talk

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"Britain and Ireland" simply won't do in the first paragraph here. The context is "Great Britain is the largest island in this whole bunch of islands off the coast of Northwest Europe". Reducing that group to "Britain and Ireland" makes the sentence nonsensical: "Great Britain is the biggest island in the group consisting of Great Britain and Ireland." Whee. If that was what the author wanted to say, he would have said "Great Britain is bigger than Ireland", which is a true but rather pointless statement.

How to phrase this so it's understood that Great Britain is the biggest of several islands there? -- Paul Drye


Sorry if I was a bit simplistic in replacing "British Isles" by "Britain and Ireland". How about something like "which is the largest island in the archipelago off the west coast of Europe that includes Great Britain, Ireland, the Faroes, the Orkney Islands, and the Isle of Man". --Eob


Well, the problem there is that you are making the thing being defined part of the definition: "Great Britain is....that includes Great Britain, Ireland, etc." We need the name of the archipelago. We may need to go with "British Isles" simply because the trend towards precision that's given us Britain and Ireland has not yet come up with a name for the archipelago that suits our purpose here. -- Paul Drye


I'm having a hard time understanding why "British Isles" was replaced with "Great Britain and Ireland" all over the place in this encyclopedia. My understanding has always been that the term "British Isles" included Ireland. I just looked up "British Isles" in the online Mirriam-Webster dictionary, and it said: 'island group W Europe comprising Great Britain, Ireland, & adjacent islands ' . Not that this proves anything, but it is definitely a common understanding among a lot of people that Ireland is part of the British Isles.


It's reaction to "British" meaning, to many people, "of the United Kingdom". It's a fair cop, and several of Eob's changes are more precise. But some aren't, as we are discussing. -- Paul Drye

If the "British Isles" is the official name of the archipelago, then that is the name that should be used. I am willing to concede that the Miriam-Webster dictionary might be wrong, but it is also possible that this is indeed the correct term for all those islands, including Ireland. The United Kingdom is just a political entity anyway, that doesn't have to necessarily correspond to the name of any island or islands. The term "British" can also refer to the island of Britain, after all, and if Scotland becomes independent are we going to stop using the word "Britain" to refer to the island?
You're arguing at cross purposes with me; I agree with you that the archipelago is best-called the British Isles -- "British" has two meanings to me, only one possessive -- but that's not the entirety of Eob's changes. Several of those he's made are clearer with the extra precision (though I'm mulling over Zundark's suggestion that "United Kingdom and Ireland" might be better still). -- Paul Drye

See also the discussion in Britain and Ireland/Talk. My contention is that although the term "British Isles" has been used in the past it originated in the time when Britain did have political control over both main islands -- which is no longer the case. Many people in Ireland do not want to be considered part of the "British Isles" any more than people in Britain would like to be part of the "Irish Isles". Most uses of the "British Isles" can be replaced by "Britain and Ireland". However there are a few cases, such as the original usage on the Great Britain page, where "Britain and Ireland" is not quite accurate because the intended use also includes other smaller islands in the archipelago. I do not have a good answer for those cases. --Eob