We were talking about mixed metaphors and malapropisms recently when somebody mentioned Albert Reynolds, our former Taoiseach. That’s right: the same Albert who developed a sudden and unexplained cognitive inpairment when called before the Planning tribunal to give evidence about Fianna Fáil crookery. But that’s for another day.
Whatever about cognitive impairments, Albert was a demon for verbal screw-ups, and my absolute favourite was the time he was urging the nation to push for better export performance.
What we need, said Albert, is razor-edged salesmen at the coal-face to bring home the bacon.
That’s right, Albert.
Of course he wasn’t the only politician to mix metaphors. The great Sir Boyle Roche (1736 – 1807) was a past master at it, but at least he did it deliberately in the Irish House of Commons.
All along the untrodden paths of the future, he declared, I can see the footprints of an unseen hand.
How can I be in two places at once, unless I were a bird?
Ireland and England are like two sisters; I would have them embrace like one brother.
Mr Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I will nip him in the bud.
Roche was a comic genius, though his art was often mistaken for the stupidity attributed to the Irish by the English political establishment of his day. Many of his statements have a contemporary ring to them. We should silence anyone who opposes the right to freedom of speech.
I once knew a guy called Tong Au, whose uncle was the king of Bhutan. Tong was a remarkably clever fellow with doctorates in all manner of hard things, and he spoke fluent English, but he had no sense of humour whatever, and no grasp of idiom.
AU!! he used to scream on the phone. A for Apple, U for Uncle!!
Everybody was hairy in Tong’s world.
Oh, he so hairy, I wouldn’t trust him with a bargepole.
That guy, John Green, he very hairy. He mislead us up the garden spout. He give us the infomation in grips and grabs.
Tong’s hirsute obsession reached a high-point of absurdity the day he informed us that we were skating on hairy ice.
As Boyle Roche said, I concluded from the beginning that this would be the end; and I am right, for it is not half over.