Monday, April 16, 2007

Harlots, Co Limerick, Jacob, "I Am Woman" & Dindshenchas.

However you spell the last word, it's the lore of Irish place names. My Estudios Irlandes article this year delves into Patricia Monaghan's work on this in her (yes, reviewed on Amazon & The Blanket to boot) "The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog." Imagine living in a town or on a bog that's been known as such for centuries at least. Here from the daily digest of Irish-language related press is news, as an offshoot perhaps of the contentious campaign to-- gasp-- reclaim the Gaelic identifications on road signs and for official nomenclature of the original versions of the places Irish live.

Why this is controversial boggles my mind. If tourists are stupid enough and Dingle's greedy residents angry enough that their purportedly Gaeltacht town is to be rendered as An Daingean, than why give lip service to the prominence afforded Gaelic? A poll found 80% of visitors so clueless, in Ireland and not merely from abroad, that they cannot find the latter place as opposed to the former. Maps give both for decades and it is not like they are totally different-- as in many I could show that mangled in clumsy or insulting broken Béarla the dignified or at least acclaimed proper by the use of generations past in their once-accustomed Gaeilge-- so what are all those years of Irish in schools there good for? Or those signs and maps with the italicized, always second-rate Irish above the capital block English. (Colm Breathnach's poem that gave the title in turn to Maírín Níc Eoin's Trén bhFearann Bhreac treats this issue of a Cork native speaker sadly travelling through the Mischling Land, the Broken-Irish place, the Barmbrack terrain-- to adopt Hugo Hamilton's ending to his own The Speckled People.) C'mon poblacht na h-Éireann.

Here I am studying on and off for nearly two decades in my "free" time your supposed first official language diligently if clumsily, in readiness for two weeks at Oideas Gael. If I can make the effort, and if previous generations of Irish abroad and at home could do so, why not you? You at least have the luxury of a free education in it. In West Belfast, in the face of all official opposition, there's an urban Gaeltacht thriving. My postcard from Póbal: "An Ghaeilge: Thart timpeall orainn." Irish is all around us. Make it so. Tourists might even admire you for your patriotic gumption, your national pride, your irreplaceable linguistic and cultural heritage that you give a damn enough to sustain. Or, is the globalized, homogenized, franchised capitalist Anglo-Asian-American hegemony that seductive, that obliterating, that overwhelmingly annihilating that you spread your figurative legs and get f-d over by any one who clomps in with euro or dollars or yen? Selling the birthright for a mess of pottage. No wonder I gravitate towards my nominal forebear Jacob that trickster. At least he knew what to f-k his grasping bro' over for, what really mattered more than a red bowl of slop to a weary hunter.

800 years turn to nine hundred and still most of the natives pimp céad míle fáilte (cf. current massive Bórd Fáilte marketing to keep us gormless Yanks in Ireland longer yet assure our both scorned and courted selves that said victuallers and mongers aren't merely concerned with parting we guests from our fistfuls of dollars) with their mouths and stand with forelock tugging hands out next to the "greasy till." Few take the trouble to progress beyond a proverbial and embarrassing cúpla focal to sustain a language three thousand years old. Israel has an ulpan where immigrants spend six months subsidized learning Hebrew. Even Wales has a similar set-up for adults. There, Cymraeg thrives beside or in place of Saesneg. Even an uptick in the number of speakers for the first time in probably centuries.

For all their ninety years of partial independence, the Irish failed. Yes, compulsory Irish for a land of English speakers was a misguided and botched campaign. Carrot of a Celtic Dawn not enough vs. the Christian Brother's stick. But, if Hungary or the Czechs could revive their threatened tongues in the 19c vs the German they all had to speak under the Austrian empire, why cannot Ireland find the commitment? Even the Dutch or Swedish cherish their own languages as they speak four or five others. But for most Irish, they cannot be bothered. A lot more Chinese or Polish spoken today; how will a multihued populace strengthen or weaken the status of Irish? How do you Gaelicize Tomaczynski or Chong? These issues need to be confronted. Simply dumping Irish for a bottom-line efficiency model that looks only at business models may spell the doom of any culture. I hope that the Irish take this pivotal point in their societal evolution to incorporate their language into a progressive, androgogically and not only pedagogically-sound understanding of teaching and acquisition. I fear that like the Cornish or Manx they may long for their native language only when its native speakers are buried.

It's a cop-out to place all the blame on one's classroom horrors, actual or exaggerated. Look at how many children, like Rónán and Fírinne in Belfast, can now attend Irish-medium education. Parents recognize the value of their culture. If we do not condemn Armenians or Greeks or Japanese abroad for sending their children to school in their mother tongue, why does Irish attract such unthinking and illogical disdain? In America, as Thomas Ihde showed in his 1994 study, the Irish in America were practically the only ethnic group never to have any cultural center or Sunday school set-up to perpetuate their language among their American-born children. This shame of the language, rooted in pigs and poverty and exacerbated by the fact that many (not all by any means) Irish spoke at least breac-Bhéarla upon arrival, spelled its doom abroad. But now, as I try in my own small way to use Blogtrotter and other media to further, Irish is part of the cyber-Gaeltacht of learners and adepts. If this energy can be expended by us from around the world, of Irish or other descent it matters not, perhaps this enthusiasm can spark change at home? Like too many Catholics or Jews who disdain what in childhood was taught to them badly, I reckon too few Irish as mature adults find the conviction to take up the study of their culture (and I separate this understanding of it from belief or fanaticism) with the same effort they might give to yoga or World of Warcraft, wine or real estate investment, Sopranos or football of either type, fine cuisine or rock climbing, river rafting (well, ok, more Catholics than Jews here) or oil painting. Choose your own adventure.

Colonialism hasn't left those rocky Irish shores yet. James Connolly was right-- if you throw out the Brits and hoist the Green Flag tomorrow it will matter little if the new boss is same as the old boss. That's capitalism for you. His warning ignored. I need to see 'Wind That Shakes the Barley.' Nearly a century later and still the Irish are more in thrall than ever to whoring themselves away. Íosa Críost.

14ú Aibreán 2007

Villagers delight in return of missing harlot

A small village is set to win its battle to have its harlot restored to the community and be officially recognised by the State.

However, the community of Doon in east Limerick has not installed a woman of ill-repute in their midst.

Rather, it has had the historical name of its village officially recognised.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon O Cuiv has approved a request made to him by Limerick County Council to change the Irish name of An Dun (Doon) to Dun Bleisce.

The minister published a draft order to change the name after 1,000 people from the east Limerick village signed a petition asking for the change.

The people of Doon overwhelmingly came together to have the word 'bleisce' - meaning harlot as Gaeilge - restored to Doon or 'Dun' in Irish.

The 'bleisce' part of the official name was previously dropped by the Placenames Commission in 2003.

Having being asked to reconsider its decision, the commission confirmed its view that 'An Dun' is the appropriate Irish version of the name.

It has also confirmed to the minister that the alternative name 'Dun Bleisce' has an attested historical basis.

'As there is historical evidence to support both versions of the Irish name, I am open to accede to their request and it is legally permissible within the existing legislation for me to do so,' said Minister O Cuiv.

'I am publishing this draft order to give an opportunity for further comment from the public. Assuming no strong objections are received, I propose to make the order in four weeks time.'

Limerick County Councillor, Eddie Wade said the restoration of the name was nothing more than what the community deserved.

'Some of the placenames being put on areas these days is ridiculous. [They] might look well in Coronation Street but not in rural Ireland,' said Mr Wade.

He has also called on Limerick County Council to proceed with establishing an advisory placenames commission.

Councillor Mary Jackman also expressed her delight that the old name was being restored: 'I believe that bleisce was not a derogatory term in those days.

'It would have meant that the woman was a strong or powerful woman in the locality.'

Irish Independent - Lthch:

Barry Duggan and Andrew Bushe

No comments: