Tidewater Traveler - September 2009
Terms of the Kingdom
George W. Sellers
Imagine strolling into a London pub and, over an ale, becoming engaged with a Brit in conversation. “’Ello,” says he, “From where do you hail?” “I’m from America.” “Which one?” says he. “Oh - North America, the United States of America, the good ole US of A, the former British Colony.” “What part,” says he? “East Coast.” “What part?” says he. “Mid-Atlantic.” “What part?” says he. “Maryland.” “What part?” says he. “Eastern Maryland – east of the Chesapeake Bay – ever heard of it?”
“Well,” says he, “as it turns out, I’m planning a trip there next month. Maybe you can help me understand a few things about the area.” “I’ll try.” “I will be flying into the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. That’s really a long name for an airport.”
“We just call it BWI.”
“When I leave the airport I plan to drive across the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Chesapeake Bay Bridge. And that’s a long name for a bridge.”
“It’s a long bridge, but we just call it the Bay Bridge.”
“At that point it gets confusing. I’m not sure if I am going to be in DelMarVa, Delmar, Delaware, Mardela or Marydel. Are they different names for the same place? I have also heard the names Eastern Shore, Eastern Shore of Maryland and Eastern Shore of Virginia. I guess I am really confused about all the various names used in that area.”
“I see what you mean, and you will probably also hear terms like Chesapeake Country, God’s Country, DelMarVa Peninsula and Land of Pleasant Living. I’ll see if I can help you sort it all out,” say I.
Of course, those of us who are genuine, bonafide, original natives of the Eastern Shore understand these terms and place names, and we know what each represents. Many folks who have migrated from west of the Chesapeake have come to realize what these terms mean, but it is understandable that confusion can arise for those not familiar with the region.
Similarly, it should not be surprising that most Americans do not have a common understanding of the terms used to describe that batch of islands separated from mainland Europe by the English Channel. England, Britain, United Kingdom, British Isles, Great Britain - are they different names for the same place? The confusion becomes evident when a person decides to look up information about travel to England. They go to a research Web site like the CIA FactBook and scan through the list of world countries looking for England, to find it does not exist in the list. Hmmm…. of course England is a country! Try Britain – not there! Great Britain – not there! And then all the way at the bottom of the alphabetic list of world countries is United Kingdom. Next, let’s look up the currency exchange rate. Scan the list of world currencies for United Kingdom – not there! Must be Great Britain – not there! England – not there! Oh, there it is under British Pound. This could be more confusing than the DelMarVa-Delmar-Delaware-Mardela-Marydel thing!
Let’s see if we can make sense of this. England has been around as a country since the tenth century. England is located on an island that today is known as Great Britain - Britain for short. Two other countries share the island – Wales and Scotland. England joined with Wales in the year 1536 and with Scotland in 1707 to form the political union called Great Britain. And then in 1801 Ireland was added to the union and it became known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Throughout the 1800s the maritime and economic influence of this powerful union spread around the world, and about one-fourth of the world became known as the British Empire.
In 1921 fierce disagreement within Ireland led to the six northern counties becoming known as Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remained a part of the United Kingdom, but Ireland did not. Today the formal name of the nation is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The more familiar shortened name is United Kingdom and the common abbreviation is UK. The UK is a member of the European Union (EU) but does not participate in the economic and monetary activities of the EU. This is why the currency of the UK remains the Great Britain Pound (GBP) and not the Euro, as is used in most other European nations.
To make a potentially long story short, the island of Great Britain, often called just Britain, includes the countries of England, Scotland and Wales. Those three countries, Great Britain, unite with Northern Ireland to become the actual nation which is known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the UK.
Thousand of American tourists arrive in the UK daily. First-timers to the UK might consider a guided, escorted tour to be able to see as much as possible under the care and guidance of those who know their country best. Travelers who prefer not to be part of a group may want to consider a flexible independent travel plan, one where they tour about on their own but with the occasional guidance of a local host. Another option is to rent a car and self-drive through the countryside, staying at country homes, B&B’s or village inns. Of course, driving in the UK one must constantly remember to stay on the “wrong” side of the road. My greatest challenges while driving in the UK were going around the rotaries (traffic circles) in the opposite direction of those in the USA, and making turns onto split-lane, dual highways. London city driving is not recommended for American tourists.
The UK is much like DelMarVa, in that, call it whatever you like, it is a great place to visit. Nonstop air service from BWI can place you in England in about six hours. Or, in just under six days a gentle cruise from New York City, following the projected path of the – what’s that famous ship – oh, yeah, the Titanic, can deliver you to Southampton, England.
Are you ready to go to the UK?
May all of your travels be happy and safe!
George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel Web site and travel planning service SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George@SellersTravel.com.