Donald MacInnes: A wee plea: please stop referring to England as 'we'

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The Independent Online

As my attached picture attests, I'm more "leer" than "Lear", but allow me to tread on the toes of that scribbler of elegant nonsense and issue a slightly Leary riddle... not to you, but to the national media: When is a "we" not a "we", but still not an "I"?

The answer dwarfs the question, but I shall do my best to précis it before you reach the sports pages. Coincidentally, that is where we must begin.

On Monday night, an unfancied England squeezed a useful draw out of France at the European football championships. And to that, I say: good for England.

Being Scottish, you might assume I would be rooting for Les Bleus, but no. In Scotland, of course, many were. In fact, throughout the tournament, many Scots (and Welsh and Northern Irish) will adopt an A.B.E. approach – Anyone But England. And I know how much this annoys English people. I also know that English people would probably cheer if Scotland scored a goal against France. But this, sadly, makes no difference to the Celtic vitriol.

In spite of my boast of even-handedness, I cannot claim that mine are clean. I once stood in a Glasgow pub and screamed myself pale when England were beaten by Germany in Euro '96. For this, to our English readers, I apologise.

And therein lies a hint at the answer to my riddle – not everyone who reads this newspaper is English. And it's this fact which non-English people wish the London-based media would remember.

I read a rival national newspaper column last week, where the English writer spoke of "our" chances against the French; whether "we" could do it. Who exactly? Of course, it would be fine if he were talking about Team GB at the Olympics. Then it's a hearty "we".

This might not seem a very big deal to English people. But trust me: it drives the rest of us cuckoo. Imagine if, when the media talked about veganism, they used a linguistic assumption that only vegans were watching. "Aren't eggs revolting? Isn't it a shame that only we love animals?" Imagine that had happened every day of your life. Wouldn't that drive you up the wall? Wouldn't that make you feel regional; marginal; disenfranchised? And slightly anti-vegan?

So, please, writers and broadcasters: replace "we" with "England". Many of you can't work out why ostensibly British people are so anti-English. I promise you, do this wee thing and you might be on your way to de-coding that troublesome riddle.

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