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Byline: Park Bencher

I THINK Gordon Brown has unlocked a genie.

Apparently he is looking for a simple motto which is supposed to sum up what he feels makes this country so great.

Some countries already have this; some like the US motto E Pluribus Unum (Latin for one from many) or the French Liberte, egalite, fraternite (Liberty, equality, fraternity) speak for themselves.

Of course, these were born in the white heat of battle or revolution - and not merely from a Prime Minister seeking to try and outdo the Scottish Nationalists.

The trouble is that asking the public to put in serious suggestions is like trying to herd cats.

And with something like this, the inner anarchist joker in many of us comes bubbling to the surface.

Take some of the suggestions pegged up on a lot of web pages.

One contributor describes modern Britain thus: "Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo". Some attempted to capture the combination of British diffidence and stoicism: "Britain, a terribly nice place", "Goodie Goodie Gum Drops" or "Turned out nice again" - wasn't that George Formby?

A few more from this genre gave us "No, please, after you, honestly", "That's really most awfully kind" or, simply, "You're having a laugh, mate".

Then came the cynics: "Promoting historical myths since 1066".

Then there are mottos designed to single us out from people unfortunate enough not to be British.

"Americans who missed the boat", or "At least we're not French".

Some of the others are rather poetic, clearly coming from people reared on our national habit of understatement (or taciturnity if you are from Scotland) such as "Let's just discuss it down the pub", or "Sorry, is this the queue?".

Then there are the suggestions from those who hate the present day - "This motto may be recorded for training purposes".

Some were simple and direct - and would baffle the rest of the world. Take "We invented the tea bag".

So my choice?

Well, I feel one little bit of pure Teesside phraseology would do. It is a short, simple phrase which covers all events, all situations and emotions.

I refer, dear reader, to, "You're joking arntcha?"
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2007
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