Sunday, 19 April 2015

10 Irritating Misconceptions about Ireland

Here's the second article I ever tried to get published, for I've edited it for the blog but only very slightly, so you can see how I tried to write in their authorial voice. I put an absolutely massive amount of work into this at the time only for it to get rejected, but it was experience. 


Ah, Ireland. Land of rolling fields and 50 Shades of Grey Green and ... rain. Full to the brim with leprechauns, Guinness and friendly ginger freckled people. Right?

Wrong. You'd be amazed at the amount of silly, unfortunate and just plain crazy ideas tourists have about Ireland (at least, we hope so - otherwise, you may be one of them)...

1. Everyone is red-headed. 

The (silly) idea: Ireland is the ginger capital of the world. Walking down Irish streets, you're bound to find a ginger anywhere you look. In fact, the place is so full of red-headed people that the air practically glows! It must be true – all the merchandise the Irish tourism industry uses to take money from unsuspecting tourists couldn’t be wrong.  

The truth: According to a study done across Britain and Ireland, 34.7% of Irish people carry one of three main 'ginger genes.' Alright, a third sounds like a lot - but you have to remember two things:

1. These are CARRIERS. This may come as a shock, but most of them are not actually redheads. It’s like the gene is hiding in there ready to spout out a ginger kid every once in a while. Red-headedness is recessive, so if two carrier parents have a kid (quite unlikely), there's still only a 25% chance the kid's hair will be flamin' it up. (On the other hand, unless you get genetic testing, you won’t know you or your partner is carrying the ginger gene unless you end up with a little red-haired bundle of joy.)

2. Ireland doesn't have the highest percentage of redheads. It doesn't even have the SECOND-highest. Wales comes in on top, with 38%, followed by Scotland at 36.5%. For a country that's known for having the most gingers, Ireland's not doing very well. Come on, Ireland. Get your (disappointingly un-red) head in the game. 

"Scotland as a whole has a higher percentage than Ireland, 36.5% as against 34.7%. Wales is higher than Ireland with 38% - so some preconceptions of the Irish as the most red-headed nation are being reorganised." 

2. There is one Irish accent 

The (silly) idea:  Everyone in Ireland lives in one enormous field, prancing around saying 'Begorrah' (what does that even mean, anyway?) and 'Top of the mornin' to ya' in a rural accent.

The truth:There are a lot of different dialects in Ireland. These vary from province to province and even between cities and towns. A Donegal accent sounds alien to a Dubliner, while someone from Louth might have a hard time understanding someone from Cork. There is a bewildering array of accents, actually, and they shouldn't be generalised. 

3. You have some kind of Irish heritage

 The (silly) idea:  'I'm half-Irish! My great-uncle twice removed visited Ireland once!'

The truth:  Are you sure you know what 'half' means? Also, Irish heritage doesn’t, contrary to popular belief, give you special powers or make you exotic. It’s just a nationality. Some figures have said there could be 70 million people around the world with Irish heritage (for perspective, there are 4.5 million people in Ireland) – so alright, those people have Irish ancestors. But when you say you’re one-64th Irish, you’re taking it too far. Stop embarrassing yourself. 

4. Ireland is part of the UK

 The (silly) idea:  Great Britain is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and the island of Ireland. 'I went on holiday to the British Isles last summer! I stayed in a lovely British village called Limerick.'

The truth: Geographically, Ireland is completely separate from Britain. Politically, Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain, while the Republic of Ireland is an independent state. It fought hard to get sovereignty, so it's a REALLY BAD IDEA to lump the two in together. 

5. Irish people are drunks

The (silly) idea: The Irish people worship ‘the drink’ at temples called ‘The Guinness Factory’.

Urban Outfitters is a pretty big force in the clothing industry, wouldn’t you say? Let’s have a look at the messages they’re sending:

The truth: There are alcoholics in Ireland, just like there are alcoholics everywhere. Irish people tend to be exuberant and noticeable anyway, so any drinking is more public. There’s a culture in Ireland of drinking in a pub instead of at home like some other countries. Plus, the average Irish adult's consumption of alcohol has gone down by 17% since 2001.

6. Ireland has nothing but fields and rivers in it. 

The (silly) idea:  Ireland is a quaint land where people drink tea, eat potatoes and live off the land.

The truth:  Not only do the Irish have fully functional houses with – shocker – running water and electricity, they have TOO MANY OF THEM after the Celtic Tiger. Seriously, they stopped using crannógs, like, four hundred years ago. Maybe it’s YOU who needs to get with the times. Oh, and by the way, companies like Microsoft, Intel, Google and Pfizer have substantial bases in Ireland. How’s this for a recommendation: Bill Clinton, 2012 ‘You'd have to be nuts not to take advantage of the unique investment opportunity presented by one of the most business-friendly countries in the world, with the youngest, best-educated workforce in Europe." 

Sounds like they have houses then, we guess. 

7. In Ireland, people speak Gaelic. 

First off, it’s not Gaelic, it’s Irish or Gaeilge. No idea where people are getting ‘Gaelic’ from. If you want to get technical, Gaelic is a family of languages with three modern forms: Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge/Irish) and Manx. It is not a single language.  Secondly, most Irish people can barely string together a coherent sentence as Gaeilge, we’re afraid, much less ‘Oh these beauteous fields of my home,’ or whatever you want them to say. It's an easy way to spot a tourist. 

Here's the New York Times doing it:

The legal map of Ireland changed Monday in a campaign to promote the country's little-used official tongue, Gaelic, versus its universally spoken rival, English.

The headline is 'Ireland speaks up loudly for Gaelic.' 

The Guardian and WikiHow do it too.


So there you go. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Really informative and entertaining.