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What's the Difference Between Britain and England?

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Moments after Andy Murray’s victory over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, the New York Times went with a headline that raised some eyebrows: “After 77 Years, Murray and England Rule.” The story was expanded for the print edition, and the headline tweaked—first switching out “England” for “Britain,” then changing the second clause.

That is because—despite what many think—England and Britain aren't the same thing. The best analogy would be to call the United States the Midwest: It disenfranchises a significant proportion of the country, and risks offense. It’s a common misconception that has been going on for centuries, and it’s difficult to unravel.

Cry God for Andy, England and St George!

“Britain” was initially the term for the home of a group of Celts who inhabited modern day England and Wales (and a small part of southern Scotland) before Roman occupation. It was nothing more than that—and remained that way until 1603, when James I of England (who was also James VI of Scotland) sought to unite his two countries. He titled himself King of Great Britain, though opposition and wariness meant that Great Britain didn’t exist during his lifetime, and though subsequent kings and queens ruled both Scotland and England, the governments beneath them were separate for Scotland and England.

It took another century, and the ascension to the throne of Queen Anne in 1702 following a succession crisis, to put the wheels of union back into motion. Anne’s first speech to parliament as Queen of England explained it was “very necessary” to unite the two countries.

Teams of negotiators were drawn up, and after years of talks the Acts of Union 1707 were passed in the English and Scottish Parliaments, drawing together the two countries into the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

So what is it today?

Today, “Great Britain” refers to the entirety of the United Kingdom, save for Northern Ireland (or, if you want to think of it in terms of landmass, the British Isles minus the island of Ireland). This is why technically, the country that flies the Union flag is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and not just Great Britain. But invariably there’s slippage in the definition: When people refer to Great Britain (or just plain Britain), quite often they mean the United Kingdom.

Still with us? Well what if we told you that today most Britons drop the “Great” from Great Britain? If you ask, they’ll say they’re British, from Britain; no one fills out their passport’s nationality section to say they’re United Kingdom-ish.

But Andy Murray’s definitely not English.

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So let’s break it down: England + Scotland + Wales = Great Britain. Great Britain + Northern Ireland = the United Kingdom. Of course, just as New Yorkers and Bostonians share a friendly rivalry, so do Scottish and Englishmen and women.

In fact, the divisions can run deep between the two. Scottish national pride can rub against the natural gravitation of the seats of power, commerce and industry to the heart of England. The tension is so bad that there will be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014—which could make the English/British/Scottish conundrum a lot easier to untangle.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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