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Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Monday, 8 September 2008 14:07 UK

Andy Murray - England's greatest Scotsman?

Andy Murray

Scot Andy Murray's march to the US Open final has left some Americans mistakenly applauding the "Englishman". And they're not the only ones confused by the whole Scotland-England-Britain thing.

Few British press reports lauding tennis star Andy Murray's dramatic victory over Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals failed to mention that the 21-year-old is Scottish.

And most Brits would know anyway, especially after Murray underlined his nationality with his controversial - although perhaps tongue-in-cheek - comments in 2006 about supporting any football team playing England.

The furore that followed that remark did not register in the US of course, where many observers remain confused about who the young man from Dunblane really is.

England, Scotland, Wales = Great Britain
Northern Ireland + Great Britain = United Kingdom
BUT many will use "Britain" as shorthand for UK, not just GB
GB also includes Isle of Wight, Scillies, Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, but not Isle of Man and Channel Isles
UK + Republic of Ireland + Channel Isles + IoM = British Isles
Former tennis player Wendy Turnbull, an Australian now commentating for the BBC, says: "It was funny, I was upstairs in the players' lounge and I heard some Americans go 'Oh, the Englishman won.'

"Then someone said 'He's Scottish!' and the others said 'We meant to say British, not English.' So Americans are correcting other Americans and saying he's Scottish."

The BBC's tennis commentator, Jonathan Overend, in New York, says: "It's amazing, isn't it? Some people here still can't get their heads around what that's all about, saying 'Well how can he be from Scotland but still from Britain?'"

It's a mistake that was made at Wimbledon earlier this year by American John McEnroe who, when commentating on a Murray match, described him as one of "you English guys". He swiftly apologised.

'Aussies better'

It's not just tennis pros who fall victim to this confusion. Ken Paterson, a photographer who set up the Famous Scots Project to celebrate the Scots diaspora, says that when telling people in the US that he's Scottish, they do sometimes think it is part of England.

Once you speak to people and explain the difference you realise they are aware of the iconic things about Scotland - whisky, castles, Loch Ness and tartan
Stewart Maxwell MSP

"You do have to explain that. It's not an uncommon perception, but then Americans are not particularly educated about geography outside their own country," he says. Although many Americans might think the same about British knowledge of their country.

"I think Australians are slightly better, but I don't think other countries want to split us [Britain] up. We're a small country on the edge of Europe. Why split us up any further?

For MSP Stewart Maxwell, "Britain doesn't really mean anything to Americans".

"They think of Britain as England and can't differentiate between Wales and Scotland and England," says the communities and sport minister.

"I think Europeans are very clear about the different parts of the UK. I've never experienced that problem in Europe."

'Don't be smug'

In the US Mr Maxwell has experienced the two extremes - a barmaid in the Deep South standing in front of a gantry full of Scotch whisky who said she had never heard of Scotland and a Native American in California who was so knowledgeable he could isolate where Mr Maxwell was from - Glasgow.

Washington DC is not in Washington state
Sacramento is the capital of California
Massachusetts is one of four commonwealth states
Puerto Rico is a self-governing territory of the US

"I'm never upset by it. It's not the individual's fault. Once you speak to people and explain the difference you realise they are aware of the iconic things about Scotland - whisky, castles, Loch Ness and tartan - and very enthusiastic about it."

But Brits shouldn't get too smug - they make the same mistakes too. Although awareness within the UK about national differences has grown, especially since devolution, there are still instances where people publicly fall back into bad habits.

And the BBC is one of the main culprits, says Mr Maxwell. This was perfectly illustrated when one interviewer asked sprinter Usain Bolt to give a message to "the whole of England watching" after his Olympic triumphs.

"It's a continuation of England and Britain being the same thing," says the MSP. "There's an excuse for people far away to not know their geography but the fact remains that the BBC not knowing it is beyond the pale."

Below is a selection of your comments.

The differences between the English and Scottish are so minimal that it is like expecting people to understand the difference between the various boroughs of London. There is no reason to be upset about it and only the most small-minded, insular and narrow-minded English and Scottish nationalists think it matters.
Tom Edwards, Edinburgh, UK

I've always had a warm reception in the USA when I say I'm from Scotland and most people seem to sort of understand that it's not England. The thing that drives almost all Scots mad is when English people use the word Britain when they mean England and England when they mean Britain - and there's no excuse for this from the bbc or politicians.
Lisa, Edinburgh, SCOTLAND, UK

Don't be so sure about Europeans' knowledge. I work in an institution with colleagues from all around Europe, where it is customary to celebrate our own national days thorough the year. When English colleagues put up St. George flags to celebrate our patron saint, several people did not know what they were. They thought that the Union Jack was the English flag... Us Brits are not all that clever though. On Bastille Day, one of them asked a French colleague in all seriousness, "So, is France a Republic then?"
Rob, Brussels, Belgium

I spent a year in the States and would have been delighted to be mistaken for English - England is closer than Australia, South Africa, Germany and the many other European countries that people thought I was from. I was a bit miffed when after I had been there for 6 months I realised that my boss thought I was Irish!
Alice Dawson, Dundee, Scotland

A bit rich, coming from the BBC who themselves stubbornly refer to the Dutch as coming from Holland, not the Netherlands. Holland is just a small part of the Netherlands.
Matt, Plymouth

The French have an enormous problem with Britain and lump everyone under the heading "anglais". It was particularly apparent during the Olympic Games; one commentator even called the Union jack "le drapeau anglais"! (A complaint drew the reply that every commentator has his own style, which presumably excuses ignorance)
Elaine, France, ex-pat Derby

Not only are English commentators guilty of the mistakes above they also alienate everyone in Northern Ireland when they talk about Great Britain or use the symbol GB to include the whole of the UK. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom not Great Britain!! This particularly irritated us during the Olympics when they continually referred to team GB which excludes N Ireland yet we had three athletes in the team and one won a silver medal. The only "English" person who ever gets it right is the Queen and she always reminds us she is the queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So if our own commentators get it so badly wrong what right have we to complain about foreign ones.
Sylvia McDonald, Limavady, Northern Ireland

It's a bit harsh criticising the Yanks for not knowing the difference between England/GB/UK when we can't even get the name of our Olympic team correct. GB excludes Northern Ireland so any use of Team GB to describe the UK Olympic team is incorrect.
Ian Reissmann, Henley, UK

The Italians do the same, when talking about British troops abroad, they often refer to them as "the English", when most of the time they are Welsh or Northern Irish.
Chris Huff, Bologna, Italy

I have heard the term "..we love you UK guys.." about musicians I hasten to add.. Maybe it would help if Mr. Murray were referred to as the 'UKman' - this odd grammar would suit a country that loves to lose a suffix, change the plural and generally mess with the semantics of English.. anyway I'm off to buy some shave foam before my Math and Sports class.
Brandon, UK

For the first time ever, I've come across the opposite. On the ATP website's story about the first half of the Nadal-Murray match (before play resumed the following day), they stated that Greg Rusedski was the last Scot to reach a Grand Slam final! Many of the English people I know use England and Britain as synonyms, which annoys me somewhat. I've never known any Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish to make that mistake. Personally, I'm proud to be Scottish and proud to be British. Contrary to what some seem to think, this doesn't mean I'm anti-English - I'm simply NOT English. My wife and children are, however.
Duncan, Brighton, UK

Murray eyes historic Slam title
08 Sep 08 |  Tennis

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