A World Map of Boris Johnson Insults

Among many others, Britain's new Foreign Secretary has managed to offend the previous, current and future presidents of the U.S.

So Boris Johnson is Britain's new Foreign Secretary. Isn't that like promoting the iceberg that rammed the Titanic to ship's first officer? 

Many see Johnson as the main architect of the surprising win for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Britain leaving the EU weakens both polities, but is arguably more detrimental to the UK's prosperity and even to its very survival.

At one of his first public appearances as Foreign Secretary, at the French embassy in London for Bastille Day, Johnson attempted to strike a conciliatory tone, but was booed by the audience.

By voting for Brexit, Britain shoots itself in the foot (at least according to this cartoon).

Formerly the mayor of London, the ambitious Johnson is a shrewd operator and ultimate posh boy: his full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and he counts both king George II and a Turkish interior minister among his ancestors. But he is also a gaffe-prone populist, who has managed to insult large swathes of the world before even taking the helm at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Facing a lengthy and painful divorce from the EU, Britain needs all the international friends it can get. Yet appointing Johnson as Britain's top diplomat feels like a deliberate snub – to Europe and beyond. As Jonathan Freedland wrote in The Guardian: “With Boris Johnson in charge of diplomacy, Britain has insulted the world”.

The reaction of some of Johnson's new colleagues was uncharacteristically blunt. Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's foreign minister, said that “during the [Brexit] campaign, [Johnson] told a lot of lies to the British people and now it is him who has his back against the wall”.

His German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called Johnson's appointment “ungeheuerlich”, i.e. 'outrageous' or 'appalling'. "People [in the UK] are experiencing a rude awakening after irresponsible politicians first lured the country into Brexit and then, once the decision was made, decided to bolt from responsibility, and instead go off and play cricket", he said - a reference to Johnson's decision not to contest the leadership of the Conservative party and thus the post of Prime Minister, in the wake of David Cameron's resignation.  

This map shows exactly how much of the world Boris Johnson has already alienated, even before taking up his post at the helm of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Another empire on which the sun never sets: a world map of the countries insulted by Boris Johnson.


United States

Johnson has not only insulted the previous and present occupants of the White House, but also the next president of the U.S. - by insulting both current candidates for the job. 

In 2003, he wrote in The Spectator about George W. Bush: “A cross-eyed Texan warmonger, unelected, inarticulate, who epitomises the arrogance of American foreign policy”.

During Obama's visit to Britain last April, but ahead of the president's (anticipated) suggestion that the U.S. would prefer the UK to remain in the EU, Johnson unsubtly sought to undermine Obama's authority by recalling the removal of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill's bust from the White House. In his column in The Sun, Johnson suggested the removal “was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President's ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender". Reflecting on Johnson's appointment, Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, referred to Johnson's choice of words as 'borderline racist remarks'.

Reacting to one of Trump's rants in December 2015, about radicalisation in some of London's muslim areas, Johnson wrote in The Sun in December 2015: “The only reason I wouldn't visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”, whom he also accused of possessing "stupefying ignorance".

In 2007, he said this about Hillary Clinton in The Daily Telegraph: “She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.

The European Union

During his campaign for Brexit, Johnson in an interview with The Daily Telegraph on 15 May said the European Union's stated goal of 'ever closer union' was akin to the wars of conquest waged by France in the 19th century, and Germany in the 20th: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods”.

To be fair, the Hitlerian comparison does have the effect of putting an earlier condescending remark on the European project in a much more sympathetic light: “I certainly want a European community where one can go off and scoff croissants, drink delicious coffee, learn foreign languages and generally make love to foreign women".

Many see Johnson's anti-EU attitude as tactical rather than ideological, and date it to his time as the Daily Telegraph's Brussels correspondent. He enjoyed tickling the prejudices of the right-wing paper's readership back home. One famous anecdote has him waltzing into a press conference just as it closes, asking: “So what is going on and why is it bad for Britain?”

The Commonwealth

In 2002, Johnson wrote in The Telegraph of the association of (mostly) former British colonies: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”.


Last May, Johnson won first prize (and £1,000), for writing the best insulting poem about Turkish president Recep Teyyip Erdogan. His limerick went like this: "There was a young fellow from Ankara / who was a terrific w**kerer / till he sowed his wild oats / with the help of a goat / but he didn't even stop to thankera."


In 2005, he observed in The Daily Telegraph: “Compared with the old British Empire, and the new American imperium, Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase”.

In 2008, while closing the Olympic Games in Beijing (as they would move to his city London next), he remarked on China's favourite sport, ping pong: “it was invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century. It was. And it was called whiff whaff".


Last year, he wrote about Russia's president Putin in The Telegraph: “Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf, he is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant”.

Papua New Guinea

For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.”


Writing in The Spectator in 2002, Johnson noted about Africa that “(t)he continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more”.

DR Congo

In 2002, Johnson wrote in The Daily Telegraph about then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's upcoming trip to the DRC: “No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird”.


During a debate in 2014, while on the subject of the Netherlands' tolerant policy towards soft drugs, Johnson called Amsterdam "sleazy".


While still the mayor of London, he one-upped the mayor of Bordeaux, a  city of 240,000 people. "I said there were 250,000 French men and women in London and therefore I was the mayor of the sixth-biggest French city on earth”.

So, will the new job instil Johnson with the gravitas that its office holder might be expected to exhibit? Will his wisdom prevail over his wit? Don't count on it. As the man himself said some time ago: “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters”.

Talking about disasters: the Boris Johnson Insult Map brings to mind another world map that reflects badly on the Brits: the World Map of British Invasions. Turns out there are only 22 countries in the world the UK hasn't invaded. Strangely, Johnson doesn't appear to have insulted any of them yet. So watch out, Bolivia, Chad and Kyrgyzstan: you may be on the receiving end of Secretary BoJo's whirlwind honeymoon tour of the world. Let's just hope he doesn't bring Prince Philip.

Over the centuries, Britain has invaded 90% of the world's almost 200 countries. Excepted – so far: Andorra, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, the CAR, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Mongolia, Paraguay, Sao Tomé & Principe, Sweden, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Vatican City. 

Johnson clown cartoon by Matt Kenyon, illustrating Jonathan Freedland's aforementioned Guardian article. Brexit cartoon by Andrew Rae, taken here from his Instagram. Insult map found here at the Indy100 section of the Independent. Invasion map found here at the Telegraph.

Strange Map #791

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.