Never The Shetlands

I have been meaning to address this point for a while now. It is something that really irks me and when I come across it, especially on Facebook (grrr) and Twitter (double grrr), I have to correct the author.

There is no such place as “the Shetlands”.  No one should ever use the words “the Shetlands”.  I live in Shetland.  No “the” ever.

Yes, there are “the Shetland Islands” but this phrase is predominantly used by our Council (and Wikipedia), ie they are the Shetland Islands Council.  Some use the term “the Shetland Isles”. I don’t.  I am not a fan of the word “isles” to be honest.  It is a bit airy-fairy but hey-ho, that’s just me.

So I need to tell you that there is nowhere on this earth called “the Shetlands”.  Don’t ever use it when you talk about Shetland because, to us who live here, it is wrong and actually, well to be frank, ignorant.  (I am sorry if I have hurt your feelings – I just need to get it out there before I burst).

If you do use the words “the Shetlands”, it would be to describe a group of Shetland ponies or maybe even Shetland sheep, geese, hens, cows, ducks if you were comparing them with another breed.

I can’t speak for other archipelago but I do know you would no more say “the Orkneys” either.

Also, these are “Shelties” or, to use the correct breed name Shetland Sheepdogs.

And now you know and you can impress your friends and relations by your use of the correct terminology for this beautiful and special place where I am lucky enough to live.  No more “the Shetlands”, please.

So, there, I’ve said it.  I probably shouldn’t but I have.



15 thoughts on “Never The Shetlands

  1. Kerry

    A very erudite piece – we are educating friends and family for when we finally manage to move up to SHETLAND! Also hoping to see the Shetlands (aka The Minions) on a regular basis.

    Stunning photos – can’t wait to get back up (but am going to have to )

  2. Celeste

    Glad you said it out loud! Call me an ignorant American, but when I visit Shetland it seems like a completely different place from Scotland. Very hard to explain to people here who don’t know geography very well. I just say it’s very far North and very special.

  3. Margaret Robinson

    Glad for the correction! You live in Shetland, just as we live in Pebble Beach and deserve the correct terminology.

  4. John Davies

    When I think of Isles I think of Ursula K. Le Guin or Tolkien! I’m sure it’s airy-fairy or artsy-fartsie as we say around the middle west of the US sometimes!

  5. Joe Boyd

    Thank you, Frances, for this lesson. I was a teacher in US schools for 40 years, always insisting on correctness. I am appalled that some of my fellow teachers use poor spelling and grammar. I would like very much to visit Shetland and meet your Shetlands, but that is not likely to happen (I am 89 years old),

  6. Sherry Walter

    That ranks right up there with calling a colt a ‘stud colt’ or calling a adult male a stud. The stud is the farm at which a stallion stands, a colt is a male juvenile horse, a filly is a female juvenile horse. There, I feel better now.

  7. Lucy MacArthur

    Quite right Frances! There is nothing offensive about asking people to simply use the correct name for your home. In England we tend to be very lazy about this sort of thing (yes truly !) but it is still surprising as we dont refer to The Indonesias!

    To give the benefit of the doubt, to some, it can be confusing when Jersey and Guernsey, etc, are happily referred to as The Channel Islands, many of the Western Islands of Scotland as The Hebrides (though more often The Hebridean Islands) – without any problems.

    I often correct people over Shetland and Orkney, including my OH!

  8. Lisa Doucette

    Preach it sister! Thank you for educating us. We have a similar problem in our area. Only it pertains to a local ethnic food. We have a dish called Rappie Pie (if you’re English) or Rapure if you’re Acadian. Many English think they can mix up the two and sound so smart. Rapure pie. NO! Drives me insane.

    1. Highmac

      Right down at the bottom of England, DON’T talk about the Scilly Isles. It WILL cause offence. They are the Isles of Scilly.

  9. Sam

    Thank you for posting the CORRECT way to name your area. Having others make short hand of a local name is annoying and frustrating. I long for the day I can visit Shetland and see your fab family.

  10. Linda Loba

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL photos – and yes, you are one lucky puppy to be living on Shetland!
    (Thank you for that info.) 🙂

  11. Rebecca Final

    Personally, I appreciate the correction. I have struggled with the correct terminology for a long time. You just made it simpler (and correct) for me. Thank you. And Shetland is beautiful. I hope to visit some day.


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