The British are coming, the British are coming!

Today I noticed some inconsistencies in our catalogue.

Anyone who follows this blog will know that inconsistencies drive me crazy.  After a little investigation I realized that this is a widespread problem.

The inconsistencies arise when people from England are in other countries.  For instance if you had a book about a man from England who spent his life in Italy the subject heading would read:

$a British $z Italy $vBiography.

There are many instances of the incorrect subject heading entry of:

$a English $z Italy $vBiography.

English is a language and not a people.  British is the term used for the people.

I reported this problem to the Library of Congress today.  They have 7 things attached to English–Italy–Fiction  AND 186 things attached to British–Italy–Fiction.   (LC Control Number: sh2007101930)

Of course, you can add any country after the word English and you will likely find it used incorrectly.  This is a ‘heads up’ to watch for this problem in your own catalogues.  It is very easy to import a record with the incorrect usage.  There are a LOT of them out there…

See this LC heading:

001       sh 85043412
005       19860731142640.0
008       860211|| anannbab| |a ana |||
010 —    |ash 85043412
040 —    |aDLC|cDLC|dDLC
150 -0    |aBritish|zIreland
450 -0    |aEnglish in Ireland

I fixed up our catalogue… now it’s your turn 🙂


10 responses to “The British are coming, the British are coming!

  1. Hello! There’s nothing wrong with using English in LCSH!. Below is the entry from Classification Web:

    English (May Subd Geog) [R S D]
    BT British

    British is a Broader Term, which makes perfect sense. If you look at the heading for British the NTs are English, Scots, and Welsh, although the term British also includes people not covered by those three, i.e. from the “Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, or the British overseas territories”. I’m not sure where the Northern Irish are meant to fit in either.

    Anyway, the main point is that English is valid as a heading for the people. Depending on how you define “people” (or nations, ethnicities, races, etc., which I’ll admit is impossible), the English definitely are a people, and not just a language. Although we do tend to describe ourselves as British or English depending on which way the wind is blowing or whether a Scotsman (British) or an Englishman (English) is looking likely to win Wimbledon. At least with the World Cup we have no choice: a visit to England this summer would convince anyone of the validity of this heading.

    The heading for the English language is distinct: “English language”.

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your input! 🙂
      I am just saying that LC is inconsistent.
      What about the following heading?

      001 sh 85043412
      005 19860731142640.0
      008 860211|| anannbab| |a ana |||
      010 — |ash 85043412
      040 — |aDLC|cDLC|dDLC
      150 -0 |aBritish|zIreland
      450 -0 |aEnglish in Ireland

  2. Hello again. I see your point there! Two things seem odd there:
    1. There are not separate entries for the English, Scots, and Welsh, seeing as the Welsh conquered Ireland, the Scots settled it, and the English misgoverned it. Maybe they can lessen the pain by lumping it all together.
    2. Ireland is treated as one entity/country although this is a can of worms and the Ireland scope note recognises this. There is a similar complete fudge when it comes to Great Britain.

    Maybe this is just cutting through the Gordian knot and keeping it simple.

  3. Awesome!

  4. English are the people from England. They speak English. Britain is shorthand for the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ which unites England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therefore it should be under English as he is English, as Scottish people are from Scotland and Welsh from Wales.

  5. Fictionophile

    I was just pointing out the inconsistency of LC authority records. Please view my response to Tom above… I understand your thinking.
    However, I must point out that English is a LANGUAGE spoken by many of the world’s peoples. Canadians, Australians, Americans all speak English to name but a few. To refer to only those living in England as English, seems incorrect to me. Especially when we refer to people from England visiting another English speaking country. The subject string English–Canada–Fiction would lead the user to assume the work was about an English-speaking Canadian. However if the subject heading string were British–Canada–Fiction it would clearly signify that the work was about someone from England visiting Canada.

  6. …or someone from Northern Ireland visiting Canada!

  7. True, you could use British or Irish for people from Northern Ireland as Irish covers the Republic as well as the geographical island of Ireland. I expect Ian Paisley would opt for British! I suppose my point is that British doesn’t clearly signify English at all and could be used for a work about Scotsmen or Welshmen too.

    We should really sort ourselves out as a country/nation(s)/kingdom(s). 😎

  8. Pingback: 2010 this blog in review | A portal to my Cataloguing Aids website

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