As we all know, Andy Murray won Wimbledon yesterday, setting off joyful celebrations all over England because, for the first time since Fred Perry in 1936, a British man had won Wimbledon.
This is, of course, a wee bit disingenuous, insofar as Murray is Scottish and Wimbledon is English. They are, however, both British.
So what’s the big difference?
Well, you remember Braveheart: the English have a long, sordid history of disdain for and savagery toward the Scots. Relations have cooled and heated over the years and that kind of heating and cooling has probably caused cracks that can never be fully repaired. But the bottom line is: the English have generally looked upon the Scots as savages and Scotland has sometimes been a free country and sometimes not and if you were to call a Scotsman “English” to his face, you’d need to at least duck out of the way of a flying pint glass and possibly run for your life.
So, Andy Murray is not “English” and to call him so would be an insult. And for the English, having a true, proper Englishman win Wimbledon is what they really, really want.
However, the term “Great Britain” is a broader term which encompasses the island as well as the concept of the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales. Thus, this is the expanded term which the English are using to celebrate a “British” man having just won Wimbledon.
It’s not an exact analogy, but it’s very slightly like Americans cheering for a Canadian to win the U.S. Open and boasting of a “North American” champion.
Or picture a Northern Irishman winning Wimbledon and the English boasting about someone from the United Kingdom having won. Check with the IRA and tell me how they’d react to that.
Whatever the case, if you’re familiar with the relations between the countries of England and Scotland, you can see the silliness behind the English co-opting Murray as one of their own . . . as long as he’s winning.