|Remembering Larry O'Rourke...and why I stopped using "stage Irish". (standard:non fiction, 649 words)|
|Author: pjt||Added: Feb 14 2001||Views/Reads: 2037/4||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A cautionary tale about an encounter with an Irishman called Larry O'Rourke who gave me a short, effective lesson in culture and linguistics.|
My father (first generation Australian from Irish parents) used to tell me that there were only two nationalities in the world: The Irish and those who would like to be Irish. Now, I don't want to debate it; I just want to report it because I think that it is an appropriate introduction to the following cautionary anecdote. The story is set in the western Queensland mining town of Mount Isa where, in the mid-fifties, I worked as an accountant for a large construction company. In those days Mount Isa bore a strong resemblance to the stereotypical town of the Wild West. Its workers were mainly migrants (known in those days as New Australians) and came from almost every corner of Planet Earth. There were Greeks, Italians, Russians, Germans, Poles and, well, you name it! One of these migrants was a charming Irishman, about forty years old. His job was Warehouse Manager and, although we became friends, he told me very little about himself. Yet, somehow this taciturn streak seemed to be quite compatible with his Irish gregariousness. His name was Larry O'Rourke Two things about him that fascinated me were his mellifluous Irish brogue and the fact that he had once owned and run a delicatessen in Rome for eight years: one of the few facts I ever elicited from him about his personal life. That element of my fascination was enhanced when I spotted him one day chatting to a group of Italian workers. I stood entranced for a while, listening but comprehending only that he was talking with them in Italian with an Irish brogue. Well, that's how it sounded to me, anyway. Now, because my roots are firmly planted in a strong Irish background, I suppose one could say that I came (and still come) into the second nationality of my father's tongue-in-cheek statement about there being only two nationalities in the world. I quite often demonstrated this by telling Irish jokes to my friends and feeling quite proud of myself, not only because of the hearty laughter which my stories generated, but also because quite often, many of my listeners would compliment me on the authenticity of my Irish brogue. And so we come to the reason why I described this story as a cautionary anecdote. On the building site where Larry and I worked, starting time each morning was eight thirty. We used to exchange morning greetings as we passed each other on the way to our respective offices. Now, because of the pride I felt at being able (according to my friends) to reproduce a true Irish brogue (and, by implication, valid Irish linguistic items) I was in the habit of greeting him with something like, "The top o' the mornin' to ye, Larry me boyo! And the rist o' the day to ye! And how're ye doin' at all at all?" Larry usually reacted to this flood of "authentic" Irish brogue with a "good mornin' Patrick" in a soft voice accompanied by a slight smile which I interpreted as a sign of approval. One morning after we had exchanged greetings Larry indicated that he would like to say something to me. So I stopped, thinking that he was about to compliment me on my ability to produce a credible Irish sound combined with an appropriate use of language. How wrong I was! He looked me straight in the eye and gave me the following advice: "Patrick", he said, "they may use that kind of language in that kind of accent on the vaudeville stage, but I assure you that no one talks like that in Ireland!" Then, with a friendly smile, he turned and walked steadily off to work. I walked on to my office, a sadder but a wiser man. I never ever used "stage Irish" again! Moral of the story: “This above all, to thine own self be true....” Tweet
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