Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How the Irish Invented American Slang?

Not sure if linguists would concur, but here's one take on how Irish language words entered our Murrican vernacular. This was sent to be by an Irish American ex-pat, the best kind, the type who goes back to live there. "Internal evidence" gives the snip a Belfast origin but no URL, so I reproduce it below. Coincidence, as I sat in on a test lecture given by a instructor who has her M.A. from New College in San Francisco. A degree I would have loved to pick up if I had lived in the Bay Area and had the money and leisure to do so. Rumors have had it that their small Irish Studies program is dormant, although Daniel Cassidy's efforts may attest I hope to the contrary. I can vouch for hearing on Fearghal MacUiginn's BBC-NI show Gíota Beag the snazzy-snas etymology already. (Image credit: The Atlantic.com illustrating "The Dictionary of American Slang." Hard to find a good pictorial for this topic.)

By the way, coming from IASIL and hearing ad infinitum the phrase from the semi-discredited "How the Irish Became White" book by Michael Ignatieff repeated by scholars with hook marks made by fingers or inflection, I call for a ban on it now. And razzmatazz allusions such as Cassidy and I make to it, of course.

Gee Whiz Daddy-o! Irish slang is baloney

By Margaret Canning

IT IS a conundrum that has long confused scholars – why the Irish language seems to have had little influence on English as spoken in America.

Millions of Irish emigrated to America but English as Americans now speak it appears devoid of Irish references – despite the reputation of the Irish for verbal creativity.

And with other ethnic groups leaving an indelible mark on English – from the chutzpah of Yiddish spoken by Jews to the zeitgeist of German immigrants, the lack of an Irish verbal footprint is regarded as an anomaly.

Now, in good news for Gaelgoiri everywhere, a new book credits the Irish language for influencing spoken English – and slang most of all.

In How the Irish Invented Slang: the Secret Language of the Crossroads, Irish American academic Daniel Cassidy demonstrates that the influence of Irish emigrants on American existence went beyond pubs and politics.

Mr Cassidy, who has an interest in all things Irish and founded an Irish studies course at the New College of California, nonetheless balked at taking up the language himself.

That changed when a student, who died at 37, bequeathed him a battered, dog-eared Irish dictionary.

Mr Cassidy contemplating binning the book but instead, decided to absorb a word or two of Irish very night.

A Eureka moment came not long afterwards: “Was it possible that some of the slang words and phrases that I learned as a kid in New York in the 1940s and 1950s √ like ‘in dutch’ (duais, pron. dush, trouble); ‘snazz’ (snas, polish, gloss, lustre) and ‘dude’ (dudach, dud, pron dood, a foolish-looking person, a dolt) √ were derived from the Irish language?” he writes.

“Americans speak Irish every day, but they do not dig (tuig, understand, comprehend) it.

“The words and phrases of Ireland are as woven into the clamour (glam mor, great howl, shout and roar) and racket (raic ard, loud melee) of American life as the hot jazz (teas, pron j’as, cd’as, heat, passion, excitement) of New Orleans.”

Mr Cassidy hopes to waft the winds of change in studies of English – but reminds readers that academics have long harboured a snobbish attitude to Irish.

HL Mencken, author of The American Language, said the Irish had contributed very few words to Americans.

“Perhaps speakeasy, shillelah and smithereens exhaust the list,” Mencken wrote.

Instead, Mr Cassidy, who is taking part in the Feile an Phobail in west Belfast next month, reasserts the Irishness of artistic figures like playwright Eugene O’Neill and the Brooklyn Irish actress and writer Mae West.

Mr Cassidy points out that West used the word “babe”, meaning a physically attractive woman, in 1926 – and that the Irish word ‘bab’ meant a baby, woman or a term of affection.

And baloney, meaning nonsense – a word synonymous with America if ever there was one – is derived from the Irish beal onna, meaning foolish talk.

If you ever need to tell a nosey parker to “mind your own bee’s wax”, you could be referencing the Irish saying beasmhaireacht, meaning morality and manners, Mr Cassidy contends.

So the idea that the Irish have contributed zilch (word meaning nothing or zero, origin unknown) to American English could be beal onna, after all.

• Mr Cassidy takes part in Scribes at the Rock at the Rock Bar on Falls Road, on August 9 at 4pm.


Some American English slang words with Mr Cassidy’s version of their Irish root below:

Buck: a strong and spirited young man
boc: a wag, a playboy
Caca: euphemism for excrement
Cac/caca - excrement, filth, probably derived from the Latin caco
Cantankerous: grumpy, awkward
Ceanndanacht arsa - old obstinacy, aged wilfulness.
Cold turkey: cut off an addiction abruptly
Coilleoireach, coillteoireachta - cutting off, expurgation
Daddy-o - affectionate term for trendy male
Daideo - grandfather
Freaky: strange or unsettling
Fraochaidhe: fierce, fuerious, passionate
Gee Whiz: exclamation
Dia Uas: Great God!
Geezer: fellow
Gaomshar, gaosach: a wise person
Hick: a rural person
Aitheach: a peasant
Racket: organised crime
Ragaireachd: violence, extortion
Razzmatazz: showing off, extravagance
Roiseadh mortas: high spirits and exultation

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Joyce Images & Joyce's Dublin Houses

Two websites worth a look for Joyceans. "Joyce Images" features Aida Yered's linked postcards, vintage snapshots, and period clip art to citations organized by chapter & verse in "Ulysses." Eishiro Ito gathers together under Atelier Aterui many snapshots of Joyce's many Dublin residences with Vivien Igoe's published chronology on a webpage (under classification #4) of what's evidently Ito's busy centenary pilgrimage to Ireland 2004. I take his shot, as mine was taken when it started raining, of 41 Brighton Square West where Joyce was born in decidely better circumstances than those that would fuel his anger and his creativity, I reckon. Adversity tempered his soul and stoked his revenge, at his cost for our profit.

I also found out that my relatives lived literally two thousand feet away, at the corner of Rathgar Road and Garville Avenue, from Brighton Square (facing actually a triangular garden and not "Cearnog Brighton," as was pointed out to me by my host, who lived at that same corner house). Growing up mid-last century, no mention of the famous author five minutes walk away was ever made in that household, the neighborhood, or the school. My teacher in high school, an Irish sister, had to smuggle the book in brown paper into her homeland to study it in the 1960s. Speaking of subterfuge, even the master artificer's commemoration plate today cannot be easily glimpsed by a passerby. Unlike the blue-and-white historic dish-shaped plaques gracing many British and Irish houses of repute, Joyce's natal nursery has a brick, terracota-shaded rectangle that blends in all too easily with the facade. Camouflage, the better to watch Dub 6 citizens of the Center of the Hibernian Metropolis with silence, exile & cunning.



Silence speaks of the world to come.

After my Irish sojourn, I reflect after chatting with a militant atheist and agreeing with his criticism of the harm that millennia of organized religion have caused. I understand Christopher Hitchens' argument of and how enforced dogma and perpetuated group-think set up the totalitarian secular creeds that damned so many millions in the name of false consciousness, deviation from party lines, and simple stubborn individualism. The grooves worn deep in my own psyche by repression, timidity, and guilt seem to have been the pressure of a thousand and a half years of fervent renunciation, or so I imagine! My wife and I read the other night aloud a NYT Magazine article by Yale Law prof (and so young! He writes of his teens being in the 80s) who after 12 years at a Brookline yeshiva that gave him an amazing college prep & Torah curriculum combined went into the world where live the rest of us, who do not know that some Jews would only save a life of a goy on Shabbat so as not to cause friction between MOTs and the gentiles, not since inherently a non-Jewish life possesses the same right to existence as a Jewish person would possess.

On the other inevitable hand, my kids sit today in the back of the car on their return from Camp Shalom JCA nestled in Malibu's hills, as they regale each other with a scary story of a crazy man at another nearby J-camp who stabbed hapless teens with a "yod," the "fickle finger of Fate" (Laugh-in reference, dating me) used to touch the Torah scroll as the reader follows the chanting of the weekly portion. I think of how Leo & Niall chose to not attend the nature setting service or the fun one with singing clown Robbo (Krusty without the bad relationship with the rabbi father, and more sincere at least if he wants to keep this summer gig year after year), but the one in the formal set-up. Layne had shown me a picture sent of Leo in tallis, eyes closed. I confess I could not tell if he was mocking or serious, as his face had one of those unreadable expressions that he has worn ever since arriving at camp, at least from the snaps Layne sent me.

Well, I kvell to say that the emotion on camera was genuine, and in that shot Niall too slyly looked sidewise at the inquiring camera. Nachas to both my boys and their adoring, stereotypical. caring mom who sent them effusive e-mails every day. Niall claimed they were the high point of his day. Leo did not, but he did wear the pricy sneakers out that his mom had sent him and inquired frantically about, to no reply from her firstborn. There is a moment that I hoped my sons entered into from their side of the threshhold into the infinite mystery of the eternal now-- a place imagined or real we cannot tell the difference.

They can enter into the realm outside our own egos and edifices there briefly reclaimed, as it may be sometimes even in Hitchens' own life, as he may think of his own ancestors among the Jewish people and his own upbringing in Christian culture, from all the sex scandals and Tammy Fayes and hypocrisy that commissars and clergy indulge in like the rest of us sinners. A spark that goes back to its source after the shattering of the Light amidst the darkness in that kabbalistic model when the vessels were broken and their warmth sharded into the eternal formless place of tohu-bohu that Genesis mentions at its wonderfully ambiguous start, "when God began to form the heaven and the earth."

Here is a passage from the IFSB Carthusian Yahoo Group that sums up the appeal of silence, stones, and solitude. Edward Emery's post on the power of that left unsaid. My photo of the Church of Ireland iconic steeple in the Glen and the older stone a few yards away juxtaposed dramatically speaks to the same language that preceded us, and which will follow us, and which eludes us when we are far from such nodes, ley-lines, songlines, charged areas of energy made holy over thousands of years of pilgrims, fanatics, refugees, and endurers. "Place shapes awareness." Reminds me of the Marxian dictate that "culture precedes consciousness," always a conundrum before, but perhaps now I know a bit more, after my stay in the Glen, of its truth.

Isaac the Syrian observes that words are the language of this world while silence is the language of the world to come. Silence begets presence and in presence listening ripens as does awareness of all that is--of color, form, shape, texture, as well as of that which is not of the order of the visible--of interior shadings and intimations of another presence that threads through and weaves self with the uncreated light through the imago Dei.

Exterior silence is often essential to nurture and awaken interior silence. That is why place shapes awareness. Places of distraction give rise to misplaced relevancies. Places of emptiness, if tolerated, birth the new being of self in Christ. A desert is especially auspicious in drawing us into the silence that is the Word of God. A cave or places of stone also compel and support this development. We also find in aesthetic ambiance the surround that is conducive to intimations of the silence of the Word, filtered through either spatial-visual or auditory idioms.

Thus, we find within the United Nations, for example, in the midst of the bluster of frantic urgencies and the deal making that is the signature of the political a room filled with nothing but a large granite slab on which is directed a simple beam of light. No matter that virtually no one enters or if they do do not stay, for the very existence of this site within this place is an embodied metaphor for the hidden cave of the heart at the core of all being form which the energies of God stream forth.

Or we find in Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, unusually long intervals of silence including in the soaring finale an especially poignant silent interval in which all that proceeded it is gathered together and unified into a higher moment of expression, expressing through this silent summation transition between a reformulated language of this world and a language of the world to come. It is in these spaces of silence that we reside most intimately with the Word of God and in doing so we engage, for those of us who live in the 'world,' the spirit of St. Bruno.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ireland: Moon Handbook review

This is my Amazon US review, posted today. I liked this guide. Not flashy, not a lot of color, but down-to-earth, sensibly written, and affordable as it's pitched towards we cost-conscious travelers who head out on our own.

This was published in May 2007, and I consulted it during my stay in June and July. I can vouch for its accuracy. The strength of the book lies in the fact that as far as I can tell from the acknowledgements (worth reading for their charm), the whole was written by a young American ex-pat, Camille DeAngelis, and therefore has the consistency of a single p-o-v that reflects her encyclopedic knowledge, tempered enthusiasm, and evident stamina. While the guide is markedly less comprehensive on history, sightseeing, and local lore than competing guides, it is very thorough on practicalities such as civilized accomodation, decent eats, bus routes, and ATMs. I would use this to work out the nitty-gritty of planning the details of staying once you figure out in your itinerary where you are going and how long in each locale you'd be staying.

That's where the prefaced itineraries geared to particular cultural, scenic, historic, or recreational interests come in, as well as a few paragraphs at the end of each county section telling you how long would be ideal to remain in a certain location if you want to partake of its attractions-- or flee their lack of appealing destinations. The book lacks the flashy graphics of other guides, and is geared more to the independent visitor, perhaps on their own, on a budget rather than a tour bus or expense account. DeAngelis succeeds in giving travellers a realistic expectation of the costs, hassles, rewards, and drawbacks of getting about the remoter and less-obviously touristed places in Ireland. She also takes care to note prices whenever possible; although inevitably these may rise, they do, due to the book's recent publication, reflect as closely as any print work can, the considerable expense of looking after yourself and getting around and staying put in this, one of the priciest nations now in the world-- especially given the weak dollar vs. the euro.

I tested my own two-week stay in such a place in Donegal, off the beaten track a bit, with her coverage. She was accurate in her descriptions, noting such details as the mattresses in a hostel, how far said hostel was from the main road, what kind of road it was, how to find the place given its remoteness, the temperament of the caretaker, and prices for what she charged vs. what you got for the money. All this in about a hundred words. She tells that the nearest ATM is 27 kilometres away. She recommends of the three choices the pub (not the quieter one I favored...but the same one all the guides like!) with the best craic. She warns of the few shops, the difficulty without a car in seeing it all, and the scattered nature of the dramatically situated settlement. While her coverage of the archaeological and cultural sites there was for my tastes far too brief, such information can be obtained easily with other references.

Like the Moon Handbook I remember using on a trip five years ago to the Big Island of Hawai'i, this series concentrates on the good place to grab a bite, the B&B that won't rip you off but which may not have t.v., the view from the window of the pricy hotel, the fare to the airport, the cost of the taxi, the options if you have a week vs. a day.

The pictures she took, often in black-and-white, make it difficult to do justice to the places, but this does keep costs down for this affordable book, and you can always take your own snapshots or buy postcards! She took care with every feature here. The maps are a bit less detailed than those in a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, but easier to read and larger on the page. For those of you unsatisfied with other guidebooks' tiny maps and insets, the Moon Handbook provides bigger type both in the page layout and the graphics. Symbols often mark tourist attractions. The pages are easy to scan without being cluttered. The shops, pubs, attractions, and bus and rail stations are marked clearly in text and on maps. Streets actually have names on maps and are not only drawn blanks!

A telling example of DeAngelis' thoroughness is the Irish-language section. Short as this portion is, she thought it through. She gives you actual words and everyday sentences and (not simply cute phrases about buying folks drinks and/or flirting with them) with phonetic equivalents, and encourages you (I studied Irish there on my recent trip in that locale for those two weeks) to use them when conversing with the locals in the Gaeltacht-- or, I might add, outside of it! She is realistic about the chances of actually using much Irish (earnest outsiders tend to be in my experience regarded often with bemusement or suspicion by native speakers), but I encourage her inclusion of this material, often superficially treated in other guides.

Finally, she wrote a lovely preface, that begins with the trope that (I paraphrase) ten years from now you will remember the trip that you are now planning, and from there goes into an evocative memory of the pub, the craic, the stranger who struck up a chat, the scenery as you walked to your temporary home away from home that evening. It's a powerful way to bring you into the power that Ireland still can hold, despite the rush to ugly bungalows, rampant consumerism, littered countrysides, urban gridlock, and suburban sprawl. She does not shy away from these realities, but urges you as a visitor to understand these marks of our society as the island's prosperity must contend with, in my clumsy metaphor, killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Horslips meets Irish academia

I gave two papers on Horslips and literature, that only overlapped about two sentences! (I have amassed about 12,000 words of notes so far out of which I had to hack out two 2,800 word, twenty-minute talks for entirely disparate academic audiences). The first was at the 21st Irish Conference of Medievalists at Mary Immaculate College, a teacher-training institution now under the aegis of the University of Limerick. It has the usual horrid 60's-70's-era concrete around a charming, Hogwartsian century-old Edwardian hall where I gave my paper. The trouble with any such presentation on a topic less familiar to an audience of Old Irish specialists is that half your allotted time you must spend on background, and I reasoned few out there would know much about the band and their two relevant concept LPs. But, I entertained and edified, I hope, and at the end a couple people asked me where they could buy Táin & BoI-- I directed them to the band's site.

One man recalled hearing Barry on Irish radio last year telling how they were treated (poorly) by a club owner aghast at their sound and look; another told me of his own teenaged love for the band, and started chanting the chorus to ""Charolais." I hope that my paper in Limerick roused up interest; the director of the conference told me she at MIC teaches the Táin and introduces it with some of the songs from the album.

At University College, Dublin, I gave the second paper to the International Conference for the Study of Irish Literatures, IASIL. This attracts hundreds each year from around the world to give papers, drink free wine (well considering the exorbitant reg fees, not exactly on the house) at book launches, and regale each other with obscure arcana from texts far-flung. While paper one pitched the band's use of medieval themes made relevant-- I argue while other critics tend to dismiss the band as a-political, that the band "back-dating" conflict into ancient times allows them and their audiences to participate as if the struggles then related to the tensions in the 70s-- the Dublin talk featured the band's pioneering grassroots attempts to make the material fresh and iconoclastic. While the original paper sought to concentrate on the band's resurrection via CBH and how that site uses user-generated content and social networks to spread the influence of Horslips across the diaspora in virtual space and real time, the fact that my 14-year-old son sabotaged my iPod's files (now I get a message that they are corrupted or unreadable-- if anyone can solve this version of doomsday, I beg your intervention) the day I was leaving for Ireland made the paper less hi-tech.

Instead, the discovery in the publication in Sean Manning's new book (Da Capo, 2007) "The Concert I'll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Gigs," of Paul Muldoon's essay purportedly on one (he does not remember which of the three dates although his essay is dated April 1980) of the final Whitla Hall Belfast Gigs shifted my paper into a direction that I figured would play to the lit-crit crowd better within the limits of my time frame. I did use basic tech after all, but had little time to set-up even a Net hookup, as I do not believe in Power Point on stodgy principle anymore than I never liked overhead projectors...yet the band's own site with the album covers (which are kinda dinky, and where's the interior shots of inner sleeves I thought were there for such as HTMSTP?) failed to do justice to their contents. I also showed the home page for CBH and explained its features.

Of course, as Miss T. guided me, I re-read (after ten years) the whole of "Dead School" (reviews on Amazon and my blog at fionnchu.blogspot.com dutifully followed). I link the three mentions of Horslips to the co-protagonist Malachy's own rise and fall from countercultural rebels to old fogies disdained by punks (well, back then I was the exception to that rule!) within the arc of the 70s and the changes in Irish culture. Using McCabe & Muldoon as well as Gerry Smyth's critiques of the band in his books "Beautiful Day" & "Noisy Island," I then briefly surveyed the DVD, the exhibition, and the CBH & HorsLit sites before wrapping it all up with how the Belfast Gigs LP neatly summed up the band's trajectory. Muldoon perversely stops his essay at the moment the band took the stage, so he actually never tells of the "gig that he never forgot" explicitly!

I do not wish to name-drop, but scholarship served, I must tell of Cheryl Herr's own work that used Horslips in her keynote lecture that closed the conference wonderfully. A renowned Joycean at the University of Iowa, she had listened to my paper and asked a question for myself and the previous presenter (graduate student at UCD Barry Shanahan gave a great paper on a 2004 story, "Home to Harlem," published in Metro Ireland in Dublin and in McSweeney's in the US, which Roddy Doyle wrote about Declan, half black, half Irish, in New York City's hip-hop scene) how we, removed directly from the respective milieux we critiqued (in my case as an American Irish examining Ireland, in his as an Irishman analyzing America), could speak as outsiders authoritatively about the somewhat "foreign" contexts we were studying. A great question, but time prevented me from responding after Barry. I guess I'd say along with the Rabbi Hillel, if not me, who, if not now, when?

Professor Herr, whose influential critical analysis published about fifteen years ago on the music-hall, melodrama, popular culture, and sermons underlying "Ulysses" was a study so engrossing I wound up xeroxing it all when I only needed, I thought, one chapter years ago in my research, gave a talk, "Stories for Boys," that examines how rock-n-roll works within post-WW2 Britain & Ireland to liberate adolescents. I believe a book is forthcoming.

She told of McCartney & Lennon stringing up wires to hear Radio Luxembourg, of this same station's allure in other films and books fictional & factual, of the amazing to me incident that critic Nik Cohn grew up in of all places as a secular Jew in Derry and heard Elvis for the first time when he ventured outside the Protestant enclave (where such wordly influences were proscribed) to hear the King played in the Catholic ghetto, and of the tendency for boys of a certain age to stay in their bedrooms, often in their skivvies (like John L.) to hear the rapturous sounds extracted from the static half a Continent away.

Best of all were film clips. One from a movie by Martin Duffy (British from a few years ago?) "The Boy From Mercury," contrasting the older brother's Quarryman-type quiff with the younger lad's SF obsession as music marks the gap between the two youths; "All Things Bright & Beautiful," Barry Devlin's 1984 BBC film that seemed rather autobiographical, if not the part I presume about "Barry O'Neill" having a spurious Marian vision (I won't spoil the results), also fixated on the power of radio changing the ten-year old (born Professor Herr charts around the same time as Mr Devlin, circa 1944) as he too hears a certain station; and tellingly, as she argues, the Mork-like I don't wanna grow up robotic nu-wave contortions of jerky marionette mime Bono, backed by Adam in a lime-green neon top and the Edge with a haystack rivalling Ian McCulloch's on a 1980 "Late Late Show" appearance that after a while she turned off with a wry "I think we've had enough."

(Cross-posted, mostly, on CBH & HorsLit for maximum reproduction!)
(Image from Slipkid's site with other self-designed album sleeves for downloaded gigs, with some of Horslips both vintage and fresh from radio/TV shows in 70s and 2006. Too bad the albums themselves cannot be downloaded as the wife prevents such forays by me. http://www.webserves.com/slipkid/cdartwork.html )

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Milwaukee Dan & Me!

Proof of one of only six pints I drank in my Irish stay. Proof too of my own largess, although the wife will never believe it, as I bought the fine fellow shown beside me his Smithwick's. Proof that my order placed in Irish resulted in him getting not his black death but my brown affliction. Here's below in my cod-Irish and blowhard Béarla a note I posted with this photo placed on Flickr. I had only visited this site once, to find out just last month about Jim Fitzpatrick for my Horslips research as he has a fine site there. But my friend in Belfast raved about the photo-sharing site's possibilities, and I promised her I'd sign on. Now, half a day after my return to the sprawl of smog (did you know by 2050, the population of Italy will equal that of An Stat Órga, The Golden State? And judging from the loss of untouched hillsides on my street, a large portion of newcomers account for the bulldozers and signs for what speculators deem lots for sale and I call open space.) I check my mail to find from my first week at Oideas Gael that my bus companion straight outta Stab City Limerick, Milwaukee Dan, has today uploaded his fine shots. I show the one of him with yours truly at our last night at Roarty's.

Go raibh maith agat, Dhónallín a chara dhil. Seachtaine seo chugainn, i ndiadh chuaigh seisean sé Ghleann Cholm Cille, tháinig foghlaimeoraí fasta go leor Milwaukee díobh. Baileoidh mé grianghrafaí agam ar an idirlíon ar Flikr freisin. Ach, d'fhill mé abhaile aréir ó mBaile átha Cliath aréir-- tá tuirse orm inniu! Nuair déanaim sin, seolaidh mé cuireadh a feiceann seo go gasta! Tá súil agam go mbeidh mhic léinn eile de Oideas Gael go dtaispéana siad pictíuraí acu fosta. Is maith liom lionláithréan agat. Seachtaine seo caite, d'fhoglaim agamsa faoi Flickr, mar sin bhí mian liom a ceangal air!
B'fhéidir, buailfaidmid linn arís in na Gleann nó bus orthu as Luimhneach, go bhfóire Dé arainn!

Thanks, good buddy Dan. The week after you left Glencolmcille, lots of learners came from Milwaukee. I'll get my own photographs up on the net at Flicker soon. But, I got back last night from Dublin-- I'm tired today! When I do that, I'll send you them right away. I hope that the other students from Oideas Gael will show their photos too. I like your website. Only last week, I learned about Flickr, so I wanted to join! Perhaps we'll meet again in the Glen or on the bus from Limerick, God willing.

Best wishes from L.A./ slán go foill as Cathair na nAingeal!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back from Ireland

Half a week in Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, giving a paper on the medieval influences & modern impacts during the 70s of Horslips to a warm reception if cool weather during the 21st Conference of Irish Medievalists. My first time at a group pursuing the Middle Ages since my graduate school days, and I look forward to studying Old Irish there. Already I have another idea for a paper next round.

Two weeks at Oideas Gael, Foras Cultúir Uladh/the Ulster Cultural Center in Glencolmcille/Ghleann Cholm Cille, Co. Dun na nGall/Donegal. I stumbled through a middle-level class by dint of previous study in book-larnin' & a bit of tape listnin' but not enough to match those lucky natives who had to sit through a dozen years of Irish classes, and now found themselves by midweek blossoming into hedge-school masters reborn. We foreigners had a harder time of it, with no such deep roots to draw from in times of rote memory or panic attacks. But, even among those beyond the nine waves, from France & Sweden & Norway & Wales & Belfast & America came diligent largely self-educated &/ tutored students in and out of colleges who determined to learn to a very high level Irish that could rival those who had the luxury (if in retrospect) to listen to it nearly daily most of their lives-- or at least see it on signs, listen to it on RTE or TnG4, or chat with their children as they did lessons.

But now, I realize as the devoted director-founder (and in my case midnight angel who brought me as if magically appearing on the spot a new key after mine snapped in the lock) Liam Ó Cuinneagáin emphasizes, we all have the radio, the Net, Skype, books & tapes, and video & TV to aid our learning. NO excuses for we foreign-born wannabees. I even met a blogger in such an advanced class, HilaryNYC, not Mrs. Rodham Clinton, who writes in Irish, and recognized her halfway up the walk to the Túr in Biofan's enchanting townland above the glen. She writes on Blogger in both languages; I had found her as gaeilge when searching for podcastannaí.

Then, up to see friends in Belfast before down to UCD for the IASIL lit-crit gathering, always an event full of fascinating people and fresh insights. There I gave another paper on Horslips that repeated but about 2% of the other, be assured. This talk examined how the band positioned itself (I did not use critical terms trendy today such as interrogate or mediate or even overdetermine) within 1970s Ireland as a cultural force for change, reflected in Pat McCabe's novel The Dead School (see Lee's site CBH for more, of course, and her HorsLit Yahoo Group), the new essay by Paul Muldoon, or the CBH site and the DVD out recently. Not enough time to do justice to the material, but I acknowledge delightedly Cheryl Herr (her pioneering work on Joyce's sermon, music-hall, advertising, and consumerism I admire greatly) the next day at her keynote lecture showed bits of Barry Devlin's 1984 film "All Things Bright & Beautiful" to support "Stories for Boys" on male adolescence post WW2 and how rock n-roll. Professor Herr taught us how this seemed to be listened to invariably by spotty boys circa 1956 in Northern climes faintly on strung wires from bedroom walls conveying Radio Luxembourg. She also used a 1980 "Late Late Show" clip of Bono looking embarassingly Mork-like singing that very song in jerkily "let's pretend we are nu-wave robots" fashion. Enough said.

Despite a letter today that accused me of being but not only a foreigner but a romantic chaser of will o' the wisps Irish, I defend myself. After or despite many years of serious study, silly fun, and combinations of the two that pull me eastward (whatever that direction's in Irish called-- this and numbering prove particularly troublesome to this gaeilgoir), my mind tries not to cloud my heart. I seek both academic rigor and pure enthusiasm. In a few inspired moments of "flow"," as with all scholarship and all pleasure, I would hope that the two do work as one.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tá mé go bloganna as Gaeilge i dtosach!

Tá mé anseo anocht ina mBaile Ui Murchú, le mo chairde an-mhaith in aice leis an Bóthar na bhFállai, ceantar stairiul Bheal Feirste Thiar. Ar dtus, chuaigh mé a Luimhneach ar an gColaiste Mhuire gan Smál. Thug mé an paipear faoi Horslips. In éigsean, d'fhoglaim Gaeilge ar an Oideas Gael ina Ghleann Cholm Cille go alainn mór ina nDún na nGall ar feadh coicis é. Beidh mé ag dul go dtí mBaile Atha Cliath riamh deireadh seachtaine seo. Tugfaidh mé an paipear eile-- mar eagsula go domhan-- faoi ábhar le cosuil! Ansin, tá bron orm ag abair agaibh, fhillfeadh mé ar an gCathair na n-Aingeal.

Bheul, tá mé gconai i gCalifornia Thior, tir ro-teas seimreadh seo, go deimhin. Is maith liom Eireann nios mó! Bhainn sult me as an-leathanta saoire, ceart go leor. Tá Oideas Gael áit go hiontach. Scriobhfiann mé go mór nuair beidh mé ag dul abhaile.

Níl focloir agam inniu, mar sin bigi go bog é agam. Slán go foill, critiulaí nios lú agus Gaeilgoirí de mo croi.... Seaghán (aka mise féin)

I'm starting blogging in Irish.

I am here tonight in Ballymurphy, with my good friends near the Falls Road, the storied district of West Belfast. At the start, I went to Limerick at Mary Immaculate College. I gave a paper about Horslips. As a student, I studied Irish at Oideas Gael in greatly beautiful Glencolmcille in Donegal for a fortnight. I will go to Dublin after this weekend. I will give a paper-- a different one on the topic-- about the same material! Then I am sorry to say to you all, I will return to the City of Angels.

Well, I'm living in Southern California, a very hot land this summer, indeed. I like Ireland more! I enjoyed my holidays, for sure. Oideas Gael is a wonderful place. I will write more when I go home.

I don't have a dictionary today, therefore I am easy on myself. See you later, better critics and Irish-speakers from my heart! Seaghán (aka "Himself").