Did you know this about Great Britain?

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The Big Ben, London

SLANG TERMS FOR BRITS

Pom or Pommy: Used in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The origin is unknown, although the strongest theory is that it’s a contraction of pomegranate which was Australian rhyming slang for immigrant.

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Sassenach: Used by the Scots and Irish to describe the English. The term is derived from the Scottish Gaelic for Saxon.

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Les goddams: A historic term of abuse coined by the French to denote the English, who were notorious for frequent swearing (God damn!) during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

STRANGE BUT TRUE FACTS ABOUT THE BRITISH LEGAL SYSTEM

The following laws are allegedly still in existence on the statute book in England and Wales:

It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.

It is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day.

It could be regarded as an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the Queen’s image upside down.

A pregnant woman can legally relieve herself in public.

The head of any dead whale found on the British coast becomes the property of the king and the tail the queen.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

God Save The Queen (or King) was first performed publicly in 1745 at London’s Theatre Royal in Drury Lane after a performance of Ben Jonson’s play The Alchemist. The origin of the words and music is unknown though a possible candidate is poet, playwright and prolific songwriter Henry Carey (who suffered great poverty and committed suicide in 1743).

 

NATIONAL EMBLEMS

THREE LIONS

They feature on the royal arms of England, symbolising England and all its monarchs. Royal emblems featuring lions were first used by William the Conqueror (1028-1087) and have continued to appear on the royal arms of England as well as more recently on the badge of the England national football team and the British £1 coin.

THISTLE

This has been the national symbol of Scotland since the reign of Scottish king Alexander III (1249-86). Legend has it that Vikings, attempting to invade by stealth, mistakenly alerted the Scots to their presence when one barefoot Viking stepped upon a thistle. He cried out in pain, which enabled the Scots to repel their invaders.

LEEK AND DAFFODIL

The national emblems of Wales are worn on St David’s Day. An early Welsh king, King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd (reign 655-82) is said to have ordered his soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets in a battle with the Saxons. Little is known about the daffodil’s association with Wales – it may have become a popular emblem because it shares the same Welsh name as leek, ceninen.

GEOGRAPHY

Britain is a small and fairly compact country, the third most populated island in the world and twice as densely populated as France. Great Britain covers 93,762sq miles (242,842sq km) of which England makes up two thirds as 50,092sq miles (129,634sq km); Wales covers 7,968sq miles (20,637sq km) and Scotland 29,799sq miles (77,1798sq km), with Northern Ireland at 5,206sq miles (13,438sq km).

The longest distance on the island of Great Britain is from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Caithess, at approximately 870miles (1,400km) by road. The English east coast and the Welsh west coast are 300miles (483km) apart.

The longest river in the UK is the River Severn at 220miles (354km), rising in the Cambrian mountains of Powys, mid-Wales. It then flows through Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire to the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel.

CITIES

There are 69 official cities in the UK: 51 in England, seven in Scotland, six in Wales and five in Northern Ireland. London, the capital of the UK, does not have official city status as it already comprises the City of London and the Westminster London Borough, along with another 31 London boroughs.

London is the largest city in Europe, with a population in 2011 of approximately eight million, covering 625sq miles (1,600sq km).

Cities in the UK which have 500,000 residents or more: London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Belfast, Bristol, Newcastle upon Tyne and Nottingham.

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