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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Tea steams ahead in icon hunt
Prince Charles drinks a cup of tea
Some contributors questioned the Englishness of tea?
The cup of tea has steamed ahead of the competition after our request for nominations for the greatest English icon.

People from all over the world contacted BBC News Online to proclaim the unrivalled status of the 'cuppa' as the quintessential English symbol.

The appeal was prompted by plans by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Culture Online project for a website celebrating icons.

Culture Online's Jonathan Drori said they wanted the public to have a say in the candidates.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may get their own versions of the website.

Fancy a cuppa?

Laura Crawford, of Sutton, Surrey, epitomised many people's view: "The cup of tea is a great icon as it symbolises so much about England as a country and as a people.

"How often do friends and family greet each other with the offer of a cuppa, and sit drinking one whilst talking, laughing and sharing life."

How about that commonly talked about icon for England: bad teeth
Rick Martin, Canada
Several ex-pats offered similar sentiments to Kirsten Begg, now in Wilton, US, who said: "Nothing identifies me more as a Brit - bar the dead-giveaway accent - than my penchant for regular and copious amounts of tea."

However, Yang, from Shanghai, China commented: "How can tea be even considered? Tea is not native to the UK but it originated from China. It's like we Chinese saying Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is our icon."

Ann from Stevenage nominated as the greatest English icon: "A belief in one's own superiority leading one to claim a foreign brew such as tea as one's own."

Not fade away

While many symbols like cricket, the red London bus, the Spitfire plane, James Bond, the black cab, fish-and-chips and real ale made predictably strong showings, coming a close second to tea was, perhaps surprisingly, the Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger
Stones fans made the band the second most-popular nomination
Contributors from as far afield as Canada, Poland, the US and Belgium nominated the ageing rockers, described by "Jumping Jack", of London, as "the best thing to come out of England in the past 100 years".

Ex-pat Sam Breach, living in San Francisco, nominated Marmite and said: "Apart from all the ex-pats scattered around the world who hoard stockpiles of this delicious, dark, gloopy, salty spread in their foreign kitchens, this uniquely-shaped, yellow-lidded little jar full of savoury goodness is something only the English truly take to their hearts."

The English pub and bitter were popular choices, combined by Dave Candlish, of Wellington, New Zealand: "A log fire in a pub in the middle of winter drinking a pint of real ale."

A letter of complaint. That's an English icon. Like the one I'm going to write to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport
Katherine, Aldford
Woody, of London, called the Spitfire fighter plane "a classic design combining beauty and utility. A symbol of our fight for independence, freedom and democracy".

Nigel Allinson, of St Albans, suggested: "The humble footpath. No other country in the world gives its people such a huge network of ancient rights of way across beautiful landscapes. England gives us footpaths and they give England to those who walk them."

'Going nowhere'

The red London Routemaster bus was a favourite, described by Lally, of Portland, US, as "double-decker chariots which will forever symbolise the pride of London: tall, long-standing and beautiful".

However, John, of London, felt the bus symbolised something different: "Like Britain itself, everyone tries to squeeze on board for a free ride and it ends up going nowhere."

A London bus
The 'double-decker chariot' was a highly popular choice
He was not alone in thinking the defining symbol of today's England might not be a positive one.

"How about derelict steel works, a derailed railway network and a multitude of closed coal mines," said Andrew Smith, of Selby.

Several emails nominating queuing lined up in BBC News Online's inbox, while John Pickford, of Bury, suggested "the bronze medal".

"How about that commonly talked about (at least outside of the UK) icon for England: bad teeth," said Rick Martin, of Vancouver, Canada.

Meanwhile Katherine, of Aldford, said: "A letter of complaint. That's an English icon. Like the one I'm going to write to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to express dismay that 1m of taxpayers' money is being frittered away on this waste of cyberspace."

Nominate England's greatest icon
08 Jun 04 |  England

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