As an American who has spent a number of years in Ireland, plays Irish
traditional music and speaks Irish (well, at least *spoke* Irish at one time--it
getting rusty from lack of use these days) I guess it's my turn to comment on
I understand what she is talking about and to some extend share her reaction.
I used to get mildly piqued with the word "seisiun" used in the American
context, for example, as the only people I ever heard use it in Ireland were
Comhaltas officials (and then usually in reference to some hokey organized
entertainment put on in the Culturlann during the summer for the tourists).
But at the same time, I have to put in an objection on philosophical grounds.
(Apologies to Maria here).
We are always changing ourselves, remaking ourselves, by encountering new
people, art, music, ideas. The philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer talks about
this in terms of "fusion of horizons." As we learn more, we figuratively
move to a different place of understanding, and from that new place our
horizons are expanded. Not only is this desirable, it is inevitable. It's the
we as human beings interpret our world and ourselves.
What this translates to in the current debate is that there's absolutely nothing
wrong with learning to incorporate a new language or form of music, even in
the initial stages when it is still unfamiliar and we get some of it "wrong."
So you might love Irish music and try to play it, hang out with Irish people at
sessions, go to Ireland, maybe study the language or even just pick up a few
phrases from friends. That's great! In my case I took whistle classes from
Mick Allen and Mary Bergin for years and years, played in sessions, went to
the Willie Clancy school every summer, and did the intensive Gael Linn
Irish language course followed by classes at Trinity College. Most of the otherr
students I met were Irish by nationality--but they were learning something
new just like I was, and we supported each other's (often humorous) mistakes
I don't think I ever forgot that I was American, but that didn't mean
maintaining a rigid unchanging persona. The longer I lived in Ireland, the
more familiar it became, and the more my language would adapt so that I
could communicate with people. If I were in Ireland and a friend were to say
to me, "I'll meet you at the cinema in a fortnight and we?ll go up the road for
a few pints," I wouldn't say, "Sorry, I'm American. Do you mean you'll meet
me at the movie theater in two weeks? Pints of what? " I'd respond in the
appropriate way. It would be pretty offensive if I refused to acknowledge the
vernacular and made everyone translate into "American" on my behalf!
BUT once back in America, I'll adapt right back again. What I object to,
and what perhaps Cathy dislikes, are people who use Irish phrases and
mannerisms simply to pretend they are something they're not--not to
communicate but to confuse, to say, "I'm different from the rest of you"
(not a YANK but something superior, exotic). For example, I have a friend who
spent a few months in Ireland, developed a thick accent, which she
maintained for the next several years back in the States! In fact, she took to
reminiscing about her "childhood in Ireland," even though she and I had
gone to high school together in Los Angeles. But she was always tripping
herself up--remembering the old days when such-and-such cost 5p (when in
fact it would have cost a shilling because she didn?t know about the old
I have a hard time with that sort of thing, but it's the pretentiousness that
offends, not the use of the words or behaviors themselves. The problem is,
particularly over email, it's incredibly hard to figure out who is using which
word in what way. Is someone showing off or sincerely trying to incorporate
a new expression into their lives? In this environment I tend to give people
the benefit of the doubt, and in any case, am I the one to pass judgement?
Sorry if I've gone on too long...it is 12:30 am and maybe I've been reading too