Note from Colin (hippo's keeper) added Saturday Nov 18th
It seemed like a good idea at the time: to let the inner nerd speak. He needs his occasional day out, same as the rest of us. But to spare you having to plough through his leaden prose (in autumnal chesnut below ) here's the gist of his message.
"Anglo-Saxon" has numerous connotations, none of them flattering.
(a) a barbarian war-like disposition
(b) the idea that the English are outsiders, not indigeneous to Britain
(c) The English-dominated government in London has no mandate to speak on behalf of the whole of Britain
(d) the English are genetically of mixed blood and, ipso facto, unknown, untrustworthy quantities
(e) the English are too given to acting as poodle to those other "Anglo-Saxons", namely the Americans.
So when you refer to us, Frère Jacques, as "les Anglo-Saxons", don't expect us to share your little Gallic joke. What joke ? Where's the humour ? Whatever happened to the Entente Cordiale ?
Well, you do disappoint me, boys and girls. Only one response to my questionnaire so far, and that from the boy who always has his hand up.
Now if he is capable of an original "take" on the expression "Anglo-Saxon" , as used by the French to refer to ourselves, then I'm sure YOU too could come up with something original if you tried.
Or are you going to let that clever boy do all your thinking for you ?
But here are three more views on what Anglo-Saxon means, outside of its strict historical context.
1. The Anglo-Saxons arrived as foreign interlopers. Even if they had been entirely peaceful, they ended up somewhere they didn't belong. Anglo-Saxons are not true Britons. The true Britons , we used to be told (mistakenly), are the Celts, ie the Scots, Irish and Welsh. Ipso facto, the modern day English are not authentic British, but a foreign strain. They are your worst nightmare, the transient, the traveller, who deciding he likes his new abode ("Good 'ere, innit ?) becomes first a squatter, and then sets up home in your backyard.
And here's a point where I find myself partially in agreement with that solitary commentator: on no account will the French risk offending their Celtic friends and/or ancient allies by speaking disparagingly of the British. Better to avoid that blanket term, and instead speak sniffily of the "Anglo-Saxons". When in doubt, use coded language.
2. The Anglo-Saxons were not peaceable interlopers. Far from it: they were warlike invaders who subjugated the native Britons. "Briton" is in fact an Anglo-Saxon word that means "slave". Ipso facto, the term "Anglo-Saxon" is a reference to our supposed belligerence and bellicosity, still manifest 1500 years later, we are told, in the behaviour of our football hooligans, Margaret Thatcher's re-taking of the Falklands, her taming of the unions, Blair's military campaigns in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
3. The Anglo-Saxons were a hybrid entity - a genetic cross. Put crudely, that means the modern English are mongrels. As such they have a unique mix of genes that is peculiar to the English. So when the English appear to think or act differently from mainland Continentals, one should not waste time in trying to reason or understand. They are "Anglo-Saxons" who behave the way they do, because it is hard-wired into their DNA.
So there you have it, class: already we have three distinctly different interpretations, and that's not counting the one we have already. You see, I have made no mention of our transatlantic cousins, the Americans. That's an aspect that appears to weigh heavily in the mind of our single Commentator.
But none of these interpretations, note, are in the least bit flattering. All can be made to sound pejorative.
What a handy expression, then, to have: "Anglo-Saxon" : a multipurpose, coded insult, one that can always be passed off lightly, if challenged, as a cheeky historical allusion, but which really comes down to one thing : the English are NOT ONE OF US.
We Brits are generally an easy going lot. We're not given to getting worked up about the tags, labels, that others apply to us. But can we afford to be so relaxed, philosophical about one that can be taken to mean so many different things ? And one, moreover, that according to Stephen Oppenheimer, reinforces a mistaken view of history and genetics, ie that the English are not native to Britain ?
We warn our own children of the dangers of racial stereotyping which can lead to demonising, then persecution. So why should we acquiesce to the misuse of a label that has ceased to have any meaning in modern society ? Why have we allowed others to lift a geographical term from our British history, that can now be used quite freely in the politest of society as a snide, derogatory NATIONAL PUT-DOWN ?