What does it mean to be British? How do you express it in a country
that believes self-promotion to be embarrassing? And how do you deal
with a defining trait of the people you are trying to define: their
habit of making fun of worthy government proposals?
spread the rumor that the government was looking not for a considered
statement, but for a snappy, pithy “liberté, égalité, fraternité”-style
slogan that it could plaster across government buildings in a kind of
Nor did it help when The Times of London cynically sponsored a British motto-writing contest for its readers.
readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (Asbo
stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while
Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly
Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the
Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was
“No Motto Please, We’re British.”