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A new name game..?

Mike Gaunt

I’m not especially fond of Brussel sprouts, I admit. I am, however, rather worried. It’s this Brexit thing, you see. If the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland crashes unceremoniously out of Europe, with or without a deal, then we are perhaps going to have to rename some terms which have become common parlance over the years.

The good old Brussel sprout is but one example. Will it be insensitive to use the term? Should we seek an alternative term? Bingley sprout? Buckingham sprout? Does this apply to other terms that are used which have European connotations?

Can we still have Dutch courage, for example, or would the good people of Holland object? They may feel that we were being rude. What about that horrid sea creature, the Portuguese man o’war? Just because it resembles an old Portuguese sailing vessel would we be offensive if we use the term after Brexit? Perhaps just man o’war, or, if we insist on a descriptor, perhaps Iberian, as it is Europe-neutral.

I wonder if there is a group of people, as part of the no-deal discussions who have considered this. I expect that there is; they seemed to have addressed every possible eventuality. But I wonder just how far down the road of avoiding European place names we can reasonably be expected to go. Can we still eat Black Forest gateaux, for example? Will we have to rename the humble swede? The Swiss roll will be fine, as Switzerland isn’t in the EU, but what about the Venetian blind? I’m partial to Irish stew. I think I may start to call it Ulster stew. At least most of Ulster is in Britain. For now, at any rate.

Will the village of Holland, which is in Surrey, have to be renamed? What about Gibraltar? If it ends up having to leave the UK and becomes part of Eastern Iberia, will the little eponymously named village in Buckinghamshire need to have a rethink? Another small village, Florence, in Staffordshire and Paris, near Huddersfield, will certainly need to be renamed, else they offend the excitable Italians and French. Indeed, should we return to a more ‘PC’ term, Italia and Gallia?

When we start to examine the avoidance of words containing not just place names, but European references or acronyms, such as ‘EU’, then it can become problematic. Imagine if we couldn’t use words like ‘queue’, because of the ‘eu’ in the middle. Our American cousins would have no difficulty, but we would have to refer to a ‘line’. Some scientific terminology would be awkward: I could see that a ‘neuron’ or ‘pleura’ could be offered a workaround, but the isotope ‘deuterium’ is simply called that. Unless we start to talk about ‘quite heavy hydrogen’, to distinguish it from tritium, which is heavier hydrogen. Why, we would have to find another word for ‘euphemism’, and that is real irony.

My friend Eusebio would be fine in Portugal, but would he just become ‘Sebio’ when he visits the UK? I think not.

It’s a minefield.

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