The other day I tweeted “Guernsey is so very English.” Well, I stand corrected. It isn’t English.
I learned this when I asked a completely unrelated question in a shop. There were candies in jars behind the counter marked “£1 a quarter.”
I asked the shopkeeper “One pound a quarter what?”
“A quarter pound,” she replied. “We’re allowed to use pounds because we’re not in the European Union.”
Well, that led to a long explanation of Guernsey’s place in the world. This is what I learned:
Is Guernsey in the UK?
No, Guernsey is NOT in the United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Where is Guernsey?
Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, along with Jersey and a few smaller islands. “Channel Islands” is not a political category, but rather a geographical name. The archipelago is in the English Channel, closer to France than to the British Isles.
Guernsey is NOT in Great Britain, which is a geographic location: the large island on the northern side of the Channel, comprising England, Scotland and Wales (but NOT Northern Ireland).
Guernsey IS part of the British Isles, which is all of the United Kingdom, plus all of the various islands.
Is Guernsey part of England?
Guernsey is NOT part of England, and the people of Guernsey are not English. They are, however, British because they’re part of the British Isles, not because they’re part of Great Britain.
Is Guernsey ruled by the UK?
Guernsey is a “crown dependency,” which seems to mean it can act more or less as if it’s independent, but isn’t entirely.
Is Guernsey part of the EU?
No. They’re neither English nor, as the shopkeeper mentioned, part of the EU.
So they get to use pounds rather than kilos. They produce their own money. It’s called pounds and pence just like the UK’s money, looks very similar to UK money, and is exchangeable one for one, so one Guernsey pound equals one UK pound. But it’s still a different currency, see?
So how English is Guernsey?
Do we have this straight now? If not, watch this video, which explains it all again, much too fast and in an American accent.
Nevertheless, Guernsey looks English, as you can see from the pictures accompanying this post, and it sounds English: people speak English with what sounds to me like an English accent. There is a Guernsey dialect and an effort in the schools to revive it, but standard English is all we’ve heard spoken here.
And people behave in an English way, in that they queue up for things and are tremendously polite. Yes, I realize that some of the English are not polite, but the Guernsians fit the “proper Englishman” stereotype.
You could say they out-English the English in this respect; they’re even polite in traffic. They drive on the left, like in the UK, but they “filter” at intersections, which seems to mean that they take orderly turns and wave other drivers to go ahead of them. I haven’t heard a single car horn either.
So if it looks English, sounds English and behaves English, is it English? Apparently not.