It suddenly struck me, while preparing some work for my studies, that the United Kingdom has no proper name in Norwegian. Norwegians have a tendency to mix up the nations and kingdom, unions and islands that the British Isles consist of and I have often spent time in the classroom teaching students/pupils the differences. I have always taught in English so the differences have been explained and named in English, easily. But now I had to refer to some of it in Norwegian and that’s when I realised: the United Kingdom barely exists!
The United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland (at least for a while longer), Wales and Northern Ireland, is referred to as ‘Storbritannia’ (Great Britain) in Norwegian, which is obviously wrong! Great Britain is, clearly, the greatest (as in largest) of the British Isles, and hence, Scotland, England and Wales. A look in a Norwegian encyclopaedia explains that the Norwegian name for the United Kingdom is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the simple and easily pronounceable ‘Det forente kongedømmet Storbritannia og Nord-Irland’. Nobody uses it. I didn’t even knew it existed. And it is far too long. UK’ers, I apologise. There should be a short and precise name for your United Kingdom. Meanwhile, I’ll teach my English-students the differences.