Obamateurism of the Day

When one travels to a foreign nation, a head of state should receive some basic instruction on the correct name of his host. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, his “smart diplomacy” has begun to look like ignorant blundering. In the following clip from his joint appearance in the UK with Prime Minister Gordon Brown — in the kind of joint press conference Obama denied Brown in the US — Obama uses Britain and England interchangeably:


The thing I love about Great Britain is its people, and there is just a extraordinary affinity and kinship that we have. We owe so much to England; that when you come here there’s that sense of familiarity, as well as difference, that makes it just a special place.

It’s not the first time Obama used “England” when he should have said Britain or the UK. When gassing on about how great health care is for single-payer countries, Obama repeatedly referred to Canada and “England”. What Obama does not know, and what the rest of the world does, is that England is only part of Britain, and has been for centuries. Great Britain includes England, Wales, and Scotland, and one can easily incur the wrath of the Scots and Welsh by calling them “English”.

But some will point out that Gordon Brown himself referred to “England” just before Obama. He did — but in reference to England’s football (soccer) team. Scotland and Wales have their own teams as well. All of them are British, but they represent the nations of Great Britain, which covers the entire island.

The Wall Street Journal noted this yesterday, and the particular insult Obama gave his host:

On Wednesday at a joint conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Obama made a pass at acknowledging the special relationship. Unfortunately, he inadvertently broke a cardinal protocol by at one stage using England to denote U.K.

“We owe so much to England; that when you come here there’s that sense of familiarity, as well as difference, that makes it just a special place,” he said, leaving Wales, Northern Ireland and Mr. Brown’s home country of Scotland out in the cold.


Could be worse. He could have given Brown a bunch of DVDs that won’t work in British sets as a state gift. Oh, wait ….

Update: People wonder why I left out Northern Ireland, but that would be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or UK for short.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

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David Strom 5:30 PM | June 18, 2024