A correspondent wonders about the 'unusual' grammar of the phrase Team GB, as used for the Olympics team. It reminds him of a North London pub in the 1970s called Pub Lotus (where it seems all the chairs were replica bucket seats from Lotus sports cars) and Canadian usages such as Health Canada. He adds: 'Here in the UK we seem to be in a transitional stage, with English Heritage coexisting with Sport England. It's not unlike the pattern seen in stock phrases taken from Norman French, e.g. court martial, battle royal - the difference being that in the modern pattern nouns, rather than adjectives, are used in apposition.'
But that difference is important, making the construction very different from the case of postposed adjectives. How unusual is it, in fact? If we construe it appositionally as 'the team which is, more specifically, GB', then the construction is not very different from the many cases of restrictive apposition which have been in English for a long time:
Mount Everest (= the mountain that is Everest)
Lake Windemere (= the lake that is Windermere)
River Thames (= the river that is Thames)
County Cork (= the county that is Cork)
Queen Elizabeth (= the Queen who is Elizabeth)
Dr Brown (= the doctor who is Brown)
architect Jim Smith (= the architect who is Jim Smith)
the number six (= the number that is six)
the year 2009 (= the year that is 2009)
my brother Fred (= my brother who is Fred)
Platform 3 (= the platform that is 3)
and so on.
But Team GB does have a certain rhetorical punch, which comes, I think, not only from the reversed word order but also from the omission of any determiner: compare the GB Team. This makes it like Operation Desert Storm, Hurricane Katrina, Eggs Benedict, and so on, as well as such dramatic names as Mission Impossible. Constructions such as Health Canada are interesting because of their use of an uncountable noun as the first element. And part of the effect of Team GB may derive from the fact that its first element is a collective noun. A few other collectives work in the same way, e.g. Club Med, Department 2, Generation X
Is the usage likely to extend beyond the present top-level institutional senses? Will we get Team England, Team Chelsea, and so on? It would be good to collect a few more examples of the current fashionable trend.