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myth busting

So, it's "Ethnic Stereotype Day". Or, as it appears to be known in some circles, St Patty's day. Patty? Where do these people get these things? I mean, PATTY? Jaysus. Anyway, my regular readers know how much I hate faux-Irishness of all kinds, so in honour of this "festival", which I have spent brainstorming about my book with my sort-of agent and helping my boyfriend make a film, rather than drinking or parading, let me bust a few myths.

1. Most Irish people do not have red hair. Nor do they have green eyes. In fact, I only know two natural redheads, and one of them has hair which is practically brown. Most Irish people are like me: very fair skin, brown hair and blue/grey eyes. Yes, we probably have more red-haired people than, say, Italy, but not that many.

2. Not all Irish people are drunks. Nor can they "hold their drink". There's unhealthy binge drinking, sure, and a lot of our social culture is based around pubs, but there's another country that's not so far away that's very very similar (so similar, in fact, that their government has introduced new measures to try and combat binge drinking). So the drinking is a small-wet-countries-filled-with-shy-repressed-people-who-can-only-release-their-inhibitions-when-drunk thing. And Ireland also has one of the highest percentage of teetotalers in Europe. Swings and roundabouts, people. Also, drunk Irish jokes? Not funny. Racist. Even if your grandmother was from Kerry. Do the good old "subsitute other race and other ethnic stereotype' trick and see just how funny it is. And don't tell us we can't take a joke. Because we'll kneecap you (oops! Another stereotype!).

3. Not all Irish people are Catholics either. And many of those that are tend to have a very cynical attitude to many of the church's teachings.

4. There is no such language as "Gaelic". It's called Irish. Get over it, fantasy writers and ljireland members. Agus na bi ag caint fuainn. Edited to add one from hfnuala: 4b. There's no such country as Eire unless you're speaking Irish.

5. If you think Irish accents are lovely and melodic, take a stroll round this neck of the woods and listen to the nasal whine of the upper-middle-class south Dublin teenager. And shudder. My own accent isn't exactly enchanting either (as those who heard my phone post will know).

6. Those farcical "irish" American bands with stupid names like Black 47 and the Young Dubs would get laughed off a stage if they ever came near actual Dublin. It doesn't matter if they have a few token Irish members, this is music madde for Americans. Actual Dublin bands all sound like God Speed You Black Emperor or Ladytron or Franz Ferdinand or Will Oldham. Proper trad experts (who are few and far between under the age of forty anyway) like proper old school trad bands, not crappy fake stuff (the Pogues don't count as fake, because they're really good). And if a band calls itself "celtic", I'd be surprised if it could find Ireland on a map. There's no such thing as "celtic" music, unless by that one means ancient music from Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Brittany. What people seem to mean by it these days is "traditional irish", and if so, that's what they should say.

7. Ireland is not some magical land of myth and legend. It's a modern, corrupt, dirty, bigoted shithole full of smug Thatcherites who refuse to make any long-term plans about the country. It's also full of very funny, smart people, some beautiful scenery, and to me, it's home. My family have lived here since at least the arrival of the Normans, I was born here, I was brought up here, and I've lived the vast majority of my 28 years here. But I refuse to sentimentalise it and pretend it's anything it's not.

Aaaaaah! That felt better. Now, go on and don't drink any green beer. Slan libh.

Comments

( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
goovie
Mar. 17th, 2004 10:17 am (UTC)
oh. my. god.

THANK YOU.

(altho, i have to admit that black 47 are a guilty pleasure of mine. they've become such a parody of themselves that a friend and i call them "a black 47 cover band.")
biascut
Mar. 17th, 2004 10:27 am (UTC)
On my friends page, this post is the next-but-one above this one on linguaphiles. Shall I go and slap 'em about a bit and tell them it's called Irish?

Alarmingly, there's been some Crazy Irish Madness going on in the British media today. On Midweek, Libby Purvis's Terribly Middle Class Radio Programme for Terribly Middle Class People, they had a bloke from the Isle of Mann talking about his discovery of his Celtic heritage by visiting as many Celtic festivals in 12 months as possible. (He used to go around reading poems "because the Celtic people are natural poets", and apparently in one pub he asked if he should perform a poem and a Scottish bloke from the back shouted "No bloody way!" Ha! I liked the Scottish bloke),

Then they were having an Irish Music Day on the Hits when I went to the gym. They played Enya, the Cranberries and Sinead O'Connor whilst I was there - not terrible music, but so very, very overplayed!
stellanova
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC)
Hee! I like the Scottish bloke too.

And I slept out this morning (well, it was a bank holiday), so I missed Midweek. I'm quite glad I did, now. And Libby Purves has annoyed me ever since she interviewed Anthony Head and kept laughing at the fact he was in Buffy!
(no subject) - biascut - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Mar. 17th, 2004 12:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pinguin - Mar. 18th, 2004 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
linaerys
Mar. 17th, 2004 10:42 am (UTC)
At least in the US, St. Patrick's day has a tradition of being a time for Irish Americans to demonstrate their political power in order to influence politicians, so it has that background as well.

Of course, not it's just a big annoying drink fest, with obnoxious green plastic accoutrements, especially here in NYC. And my quest a few weekends ago to find actual Traditional Irish music, or at least "Irish" music that seemed as if it had a passing acquaintance with traditional styles was a bust.

But I don't think you have to be a trad expert to enjoy the traditional fiddle and pipe tunes.
stellanova
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:02 am (UTC)
Oh no, I don't think you have to be an expert to like trad music. It's just that here, people who are into it tend to be really into it. I like it - and my years as a cinnire in Irish-language-summer-schools in the Gaeltacht mean that I have been to many, many, many ceilis in my time, so I know the my set-dances and stuff - but I don't go out seeking proper trad music sessions. What annoys me is the pseudo-Irish music that pretends to be some sort of rousing trad stuff and which is just stupid and nothing to do with Ireland at all.

Actually, I haven't been to a ceili in years - I'm kind of the in the mood for one right now. Set dancing is really, really good fun when you know the steps...
(no subject) - linaerys - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:10 am (UTC) - Expand
daegaer
Mar. 17th, 2004 10:49 am (UTC)
FOCAIL!

Hmm. How come it doesn't sound so net-denizen in Irish? :-)
stellanova
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:09 am (UTC)
Hee! It doesn't, does it? Bah!
theolive
Mar. 17th, 2004 10:54 am (UTC)
Fair play to ya!
As an idealistic american, yoked to an irishman(county Donegal--jaysus, there's an accent for you-I always have a 5-second delay when talking to his dad on the phone before I can make out what he just said-and I'm GOOD with accents), who's only been to Eire once, 18 mos ago, here's my REAL IRISH FACTOIDS, as reported by an american:

-Everyone in Ireland certainly doesn't drink(we mainly saw wine consumption, if anything)...but they ALL smoke, men, women & children, constantly. : )
(I'm an ex-smoker who LOVES the smell of cigs, but even I couldn't take being at a table with 5 women and one man all smoking at once!)

-Irish roads are the narrowest in the world. Irish people drive like feckin' maniacs in town or country.

-Irish people have the dryest sense of humour in the world. They are the canniest at sizing people up in the least amount of time. God help you if you look "dodgy" to 'em!

-It is indeed the greenest, prettiest countryside in the world.

-Irish people are among the very proudest in the world, and rightly so.

-Irish people used to have a particular affection for ammuricans before stupid Geo. Bush took office & ruined it for us.

Hmmm...all I can think of now...but although I can't & won't argue with a native daughter about the social ills & such, and I *did* see some poverty on the outskirts of Limerick, etc., the ONLY place that shocked me with its dreariness was when we went over the border into No. Ireland-wham! England. Sad. It really was bleak. Yikes. And I have been an "anglophile" since I was about 5. Been to the UK many times,loved it. I had a tremendously different view after a month in Ireland.


stellanova
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC)
Re: Fair play to ya!
Hmmm, I wouldn't think Northern Ireland was like England - it's like it's own little rather intimidating universe to me. And like most middle-class Irish educated people, I grew up with English literature and pop culture, so England never feels particularly odd to me. Northern Ireland does, though.

Our roads are indeed terrible. But everytime a bypass or road-widening is suggested, people rightly point out the environmental or archeological damage that will do. Which is fair enough. Still, the pot holes are fucking appalling.

I wouldn't have thought we were particularly smoky, but radegund, who is more vehemently anti-smoking-in-public-places than me, might disagree!
Re: Fair play to ya! - theolive - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Fair play to ya! - stellanova - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Fair play to ya! - theolive - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:36 am (UTC) - Expand
hfnuala
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:06 am (UTC)
There are more redheads (as a % of the population) in Scotland.

And I have blue eyes. I don't think I've ever met a redhead with green eyes.

You forgot:

4b. There's no such country as Eire unless you're speaking Irish.
riarambles
Mar. 17th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I'm married to a redhead with green eyes.
cosmorific
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:06 am (UTC)
My mother's a redhead, and she doesn't have a drop of Irish blood in her (half Italian, half Jewish). If anything, red hair is probably a Viking trait rather than a Celtic one, given that the former invaded Sicily and other such places.

Anyway, it's snowing so hard today, I don't think anyone, even in Boston, feels like celebrating. Stupid Nor'Easters. *shakes fist at weather gods*
linaerys
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)
Yah, I have some Irish relatives in Cork, but they're all dark-haired. I'm a redhead, but I think it comes from the Swedish and Dutch sides of the family.
(no subject) - listersgirl - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fromaway - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fromaway - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theolive - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fromaway - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theolive - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alicetiara - Mar. 18th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Mar. 18th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Mar. 18th, 2004 12:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Mar. 18th, 2004 01:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Mar. 19th, 2004 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
hfnuala
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC)
About Black 47
From usenet:

you wouldn't get
an Israeli band call Belsen '43 or an Argentine band called Dirty War or an
American band called Oklahoma Bomb'95. Some things are just too serious to
be attached to bands whose primary role is to entertain.
cosmorific
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:37 am (UTC)
Re: About Black 47
Now watch there be an American band calling itself 9/11. No, I wouldn't put it past us.
Re: About Black 47 - fromaway - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: About Black 47 - cosmorific - Mar. 17th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC) - Expand
sdn
Mar. 17th, 2004 11:47 am (UTC)
this is great stuff. i'm going to reread your post and all of the responses later.

here in nyc today is "wear a green plastic bowler hat and get drunk" day. i think morons of all ethnicities use it as an excuse.

i like this cardigan, but i bet the prose will make you hurl: handmade crocheted cardigan
stellanova
Mar. 17th, 2004 12:09 pm (UTC)
Hee, I'd comment further but I'm still puking after reading about the pony called Brendan. Good Lord.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - stellanova - Mar. 18th, 2004 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socmot - Mar. 17th, 2004 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
audrawilliams
Mar. 17th, 2004 12:09 pm (UTC)
Your feelings about this remind me of the way I feel about the hokey-fication of Atlantic Canada.
cangetmad
Mar. 17th, 2004 02:17 pm (UTC)
While I always enjoy your donning of the ranty-pants, still:

4. There is no such language as "Gaelic". It's called Irish.

There is a language called Gaelic. They speak it in the Western Isles of Scotland, mostly.
blue_monday
Mar. 17th, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Apparently there's three Gaelic languages - Irish, Scots and Manx.

At least, that's according to here.
(no subject) - cangetmad - Mar. 18th, 2004 12:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Mar. 18th, 2004 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
biascut
Mar. 17th, 2004 02:52 pm (UTC)
Eeek! Google's gone Irish!
blue_monday
Mar. 17th, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yup, I noticed that this morning, and my reaction was pretty much 'eek' as well.

strangely, google.com hasn't gone Irish.
alltheleaves
Mar. 22nd, 2004 03:41 am (UTC)
I actually saw quite a few redheads in Italy.

I'm always confused by England as a country celebrating St Patrick's Day so much and yet completely ignoring their own national day. We have no traditions associated with it whatsoever, but then that may easily be attributed to the fact that St George had nothing to do with England. On the other hand he also had nothing to do with Cataluña and he's their patron saint too. I was in Barcelona on April 23rd last year and everywhere people had the Catalan flag up, bread was baked in the colours of the flag (red and yellow stripes) and the tradition is that women give men a book and men give women a rose, so everywhere there were booksellers and rose sellers. I got back to England later that day and there was nothing.
( 51 comments — Leave a comment )

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