March 2015

Mar 2015

Everyone’s a Little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Everyone is “a little Irish” on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. How delightful! Especially in light of all the cultural divisions in the country and world that always seem to be in the local, national, and international news, I think it’s a wonderful thing to see people sharing another culture’s holiday. Someday, I hope the joyful embrace of different cultures will be the norm, not the exception.

Ever since I can remember, almost everyone wore green to school and/or to work on St. Patrick’s Day, whether or not they were truly “Irish.” Even our President adds an apostrophe to his name on March 17! I can remember a time many years ago when young moms would gather after the school bus left on the morning of March 17 to socialize over green bagels and someone’s home made Irish Soda Bread. And the corned beef and cabbage for lunch or dinner or visiting a pub serving green beer….great memories!

Irish immigrants brought a lot to share with their new country. They made treacherous ocean crossings on ”coffin ships,” vessels that were not truly sea-worthy to escape the potato famines. Many died at sea. In the country they left, their countrymen referred to their send-off as “American wakes,” because those that stayed behind knew they might never see their loved ones again, even if they arrived safely on the other side of the ocean.

Linguistically, Irish immigrants brought a lot of words and expressions to their new country which today have become a permanent part of our language and culture. Here are a few that you may not know came from Ireland and Irish Gaelic:

● Ballyhoo – This word now stands for the kind of ‘noise’ made by political candidates, advertisers, and promoters. It originates from the Irish town Ballyhooly in County Cork, which was well-known for passionate citizen debate on affairs of the day. After dropping its final syllable, the name of the town labeled any loud debate.
● Brogue – We use this word now to describe a strong regional Irish “accent.” Its origins are in the type of shoes (brogues) worn by people who spoke in a certain way.
● Hooligan – (from the Irish family name Ó hUallacháin, anglicised as O’Houlihan) has come to mean one who takes part in rowdy behavior and vandalism.

Of course, there are the obvious: ‘Limerick,’ ‘leprechaun,’ ‘shamrock,’ but did you know that ‘jazz,’ ‘poker,’ ‘moolah,’ and ‘spunk’ all derive from Irish Gaelic? ‘Buddy’ is another Irish Gaelic word, which comes from the Irish expression, a ‘vuddy,’ or a ‘bhodaigh,’ which means something like ‘pal.’

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day, however you celebrate.