In the Black Mirror episode titled "Black Museum" (Season 4, Episode 6), when the character Nish is introduced to Rolo, he says

Nice accent, you from Australia?

To which she replies;

Nah, I'm from Britain.

As soon as she said this, my first thought was "Damn, that is bad. No one would say they are from Britain. She would say she is from England." If he asked her "Are you Australian?" then she might reply "No, I am British", but I wouldn't think anyone would from England, Scotland, or Wales would say they are from Britain.

My initial thought was that it was an "Americanism" in that the writer just generalised three individual countries as being one, however at the end of the episode when a twist is revealed, I wondered if this was actually a really bit of clever writing by Charlie Brooker? Did he put in this deliberate mistake (in my opinion)? Or am I just wrong and some people do say that they are from Britain?

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    Have to say I read it in the same way as yourself, a clever hint that she's not really British... Americans seem to refer to a "British accent" which doesn't really make sense given how many different British accents there are - I really think an English person would be more likely to say "England", especially since it was in reference to the accent. When she said it first, of course, I thought it may have been a mistake on the part of the writer, but by the end I thought it was an "Americanism", but by the character, not the writer, and so meant as a clue.
    – komodosp
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 17:15
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    Are we sure that the borders/countries haven't changed?
    – Zoredache
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 18:15
  • I have a friend whose lived in the US for the last 20s, whom was born in (and has family in the UK. And, actually, she' just moved back. She usually refers to her native country as the UK, England, or "G.B.". Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:20
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    Maybe she's from Britain but not British?
    – code ninja
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:35
  • @colmde However, I often hear about an "American accent", when we have people from NY/NJ, Philly, Boston, the deep south, Wisconsin, etc with completely different accents.
    – krillgar
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


From the perspective of an Englishman...

I can't provide citations for this, but over the years there has been more ... pressure might be too strong a word, but encouragement from all sides, government, media, that we are all now British not English. It's what you put on forms, official or otherwise, it's what is offered in drop-menus for anything that needs a nationality.
English isn't there as an option [neither is Welsh or Scottish].

When I was asked in the US [oh, yes, it happens a lot] if I was Australian [how they can confuse the two will elude me forever] I would answer that I'm English...
... but that was 20 years ago, since I was last in the States.

I do get the feeling that British would be first to hit my lips these days.

There is the additional point that the actress's British accent is very much a modern Southern/London 'street/youth' accent and the glottal stop in "Bri ' ain" just hit the spot sonically better than "England" would have done.

In the UK, there is a great awareness of accents and the geographical distance between them. As a Northerner, if I'm speaking to another Northerner, I'll be specific about Northern accents and their respective towns/areas. If I'm speaking to a Southerner [my partner, for instance] you accept that they really can't tell the difference to such small degrees, so you broaden these areas. Living with this large set of accent distinctions in what is, compared to the US, a tiny area gives the average Brit a good sense of 'when to be specific and when to generalise'. We probably do it sub-consciously.

Regarding comments already posted - there is an additional consideration.
The question was specifically "Are you from [country]?".
The answer to that question is "No, I am from [country]".
The character is replying directly to the form of the question. She also has sufficient command of specific regional English to be able to achieve a very very convincing accent; she would be unlikely to slip up.

Were we still in the days of the Raj, then the answer would probably be [imagine stiff upper lip] "By god, no, I'm English!" with an implication that for anyone to assume otherwise is just because they don't know any better, being foreign.
That mental attitude [fortunately] doesn't survive to this modern day, and may do even less in the future...

...and bear in mind that all Black Mirror stories take place at some indeterminate time in the future.

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    I am Scottish, and yeah for official forms it is generally either "British" as Nationality and "Great Britain" or "UK" as Country of Origin. In the US I generally get confused with being Irish, so they are a bit closer to home than Australia. I would just like to think that Charlie Brooker put that line in as a bit of a clue to the twist at the end :) Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 16:56
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    I would identify as British... but I would never say I am 'from Britain', it's too broad. If someone asked where an American was from, would they be more likely to identify by state or just broadly as 'American', I wonder? Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 17:54
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    @JohnSmithOptional In my experience, it's usually "I'm from America" and then a knowing grin from the other party with a prompt, "yes, but where in America..."
    – Danny
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 18:35
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    FWIW, the very few times I've been abroad and someone asked where I was from, I would say "Texas" instead of "America" or "the U.S." Most people have at least heard of the place, so it usually wasn't a problem.
    – John Bode
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:27
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    how they can confuse the two will elude me forever. Here's an analogy: xkcd.com/435. American pronounciation/hearing is the mathematician. There is a huge amount of distinction between the other dialects/accents of English spoken elsewhere, but for an American they are all just the same. That being said, most Americans I've met can differentiate between a large number of regional dialects in their own country just fine. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:05

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