Thursday, July 12, 2007

Inheriting an Irish Turn of Phrase

I’ve been working on my family tree again, which has brought me to the “Irish” branch of the tree. That branch has always amused me because no matter how many genes were donated by a multitude of generations proceeding them, both my Mom and my mother-in-law have declared themselves IRISH. Yes, in capital letters. Both have been to Ireland and claim it is the most beautiful, quaint spot in the world. I’m thinking it’s the “quaint” part which returns them home to the conveniences at their fingertips. Both of them view Ireland as the sunny land which gave us this blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Although I see how the conglomeration of my forefathers’ attributes formed the genetic soup of me, I'm wondering if perhaps the writer in me just might have arisen from Irish DNA. As a non-drinker, I don't share their legendary love of the pint. And my gift of gab is more comfortable shared on paper than in actual storytelling before a small crowd. But considering how these folks can turn a phrase, if you can get drunk on words, well then, I might be a little bit more Irish than I’ve previously claimed.

Curiosity [which I believe is universal and not the property of any single country] made me look up a thing or two. Word wise, the Irish seem to be known for two things: sayings which can be recorded in needlepoint for the living room wall and enthusiastic toasts. The wise ones include:

You will never plough a field if you only turn it over in your mind.

Melodious is the closed mouth.

The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.

And then there's the slightly off kilter:

May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

We have the sentimental sayings:

No man ever wore a scarf as warm as his daughter’s arm around his neck.

May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.

Beautiful young people are acts of nature, But beautiful old people are works of art.

May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight.


Ah, then there are the toasts. Hundreds of them! The most creative one I found was:

We drink to your coffin.
May it be built from the wood of a hundred year old oak tree that I shall plant tomorrow
.

The most telling toast was of a man scorned, who was caught up in his cups:

Here's to women's kisses,
and to whiskey, amber clear;
Not as sweet as a woman's kiss,
but a darn sight more sincere!

Okay, I admit it. I love the choice of words, how they blend together to make such vivid pictures. And then I got to the curses. I had not idea how creative a riled up person could become! We begin with a mild warm up:

Irish Diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell
so that he looks forward to making the trip.

May the cat eat you, and may the cat be eaten by the devil.
Of all the curses I found, and there were TONS of them, this one created the wildest visual of all:

May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself
can't find you with a telescope.

So today, my Irish gene decree I creatively say to you:
May you find the love you deserve, the happiness you’ve worked for and
may you never, EVER run into Mary Malone and her brood!

 

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

LMAO!! yep, me mum and her siblings all declared themselves Irish because Pappy was Irish. The funny thing is my dad's Spanish/Portugese, but I feel more Irish and identify with the Irish side. Although one thing Pappy liked about my dad was he liked the drink as much as any Irishman. When he died I wrote this song for him.

Erin go Bragh! or as my mum would say...Erin go braghless :-).

IRISH SONGS

Grandpa used to drink a bit,
And sometimes he’d get drunk,
And when he did he’d sing soft Irish tunes,
Grandma would act mad,
But I’d see her smile as she turned away
And even now today
I see them there,
Grandpa at the kitchen table,
Grandma in her rocking chair.

Oh, time you moved too quickly by,
Taking love and laughter and Irish songs,
And childhood memories of mine,
Oh time, you treated me so wrong.

Grandpa used to drink a bit,
And sometimes he’d get drunk
Then he’d dance an Irish jig,
He said he’d dance at my wedding,
But he died before I married,
As his coffin pallbearers carried,
I sang a soft Irish tune,
Dance the Irish jig,
Oh, grandpa, you died too soon.

Oh, time you moved too quickly by,
Taking love and laughter and Irish songs,
And childhood memories of mine,
Oh time, you treated me so wrong.

Grandpa used to drink a bit,
And sometimes he’d get drunk,
And he’d talk of God and heaven,
I wonder is God sings Irish songs,
With grandpa and do they dance
The jig, is there a chance,
Grandpa and God will share a drink,
And talk of Ireland so green,
It’s just something I like to think.

Oh time, you moved too quickly by,
Taking love and laughter and Irish songs,
And childhood memories of mine,
Oh time, you treated me so wrong.

Grandpa used to drink a bit,
And sometimes he’d get drunk,
And now I miss the Irish songs,
Dancing the jig with him,
Twirling round the kitchen floor,
We didn’t need anything more,
Grandma would smile,
As we danced and sang,
Laughing all the while.

Oh time, you moved too quickly by,
Taking love and laughter and Irish songs,
And childhood memories of mine,
Oh time, you treated me so wrong.