Union Jack

I’m greatly enjoying Chris Evans on breakfast on Radio 2. He’s quickly established the programme as a feelgood way to start the day that appeals to the whole family. Much as I loved Terry Wogan, he’d handed his show over to his contributors, and it had begun to show.

One feature I particularly enjoy is the Wrong Bongs. To the sounds of the Bongs of Big Ben, Sally Traffic runs through the mistakes they made on the previous programme, as spotted by the listeners. It’s a brilliant way to encourage interactivity. There’s nothing the British public like more than correcting mistakes.

On this morning’s show there was a correction. The Union Flag had incorrectly been referred to as the Union Jack by the sports Johnny. As anyone who’s worked at the BBC for any time knows, it’s a real bugbear with navy types. It’s only a Union Jack when it’s flying off the back of a boat, otherwise it should correctly be referred to as the Union Flag.

However, I think that is a load of nonsense. If enough people call it a Union Jack, then that is what it is. If you asked people to draw a Union Jack, they would draw a Union Flag. Everyone knows what you mean when you say Union Jack, and if you don’t I’ve carefully posted one at the top of this page.

English is an evolving language. Words change and we need to change with them. It’s not latin, it’s not a dead language, it’s a vibrant ever changing language. Mother Tongue is an excellent book by Bill Bryson which shows how British English and American English evolved in different directions. But it’s all English innit?

And that’s why I have no truck when people try and tell me stadia is the plural of stadium. I speak English not latin, so for me the plural is stadiums. Either form is acceptable, but try telling that to the Old Skool buffers who complain. They probably don’t spell skool like that either!

I once interviewed English football hero Jack Charlton who’d been manager of the Irish national team for a while. When he arrived in Dublin he was greeted with banners saying, ‘Go Home Union Jack.’ He should have told them he had never been tied to a flagpole on a boat in his life. But perhaps he had. I have no details about his private life. Although he did tell me he fell asleep in front of the Pope during a Vatican visit, which didn’t go down very well in Catholic Ireland.

Now how did I get onto football? This was meant to be a blog about radio and my old mate Chris Evans. Did I mention he used to be my regular squash partner? But that’s a story for another day.

Bong! It’s not Sally Traffic it’s Lynn Bowles. Bong! That’s probably not how you spell Lynne. Bong! etc, you get the idea.

Jem – Monday Feb 15th 2010 – Nottingham