Barack O’Bama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas, said the US president. I am here to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way.
You see, Barack, there’s the problem right there. You’ve been badly advised. That apostrophe isn’t Irish. That apostrophe is something imposed on Irish names by English speakers who couldn’t get their heads or their tongues around “Ó”. When Irish names became transliterated into English, they acquired the ludicrous apostrophe that eventually gave us Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
Though we may have embraced it wholeheartedly, that apostrophe came not from Gaelic culture but from Englishmen who had in mind Will o’ the Wisp and John o’ Groats when they told us what our names should be in English.
How telling that we treat it as our own, just as we bought into the saccharine sheet music dross pumped out by Johnny Patterson in the 1870s and sold in New York by the thousand to gullible ex-pats. Shake hands with your uncle Dan. The stone outside Dan Murphy’s door. I like to wander down the old boreen.
How many Irish people do you know who still, to this day, think such nonsense is part of our heritage? How many parties have you been at where some old fella breaks into a mawkish rendition of Goodbye Johnny Dear, Off to Philadelphia in the Morning or some other tear-jerking piffle? Many, in my experience, as we dilute our true heritage with ersatz rubbish.
I’m surprised at Obama, who is a highly capable scholar, but perhaps it shows his true intent in coming to Ireland. When I heard him speak of the lost apostrophe, I knew he was here for the Leprechaun value of the visit. Just a re-election stunt, with the Irish turning out in their throngs to provide the willing extras in the campaign ad. He wanted to meet us in the garden where the praties grow, and there was no shortage of fresh-faced gorsoons and colleens to play along in this modern, though stone broke, Glocca Morra to maintain the Hollywood fantasy.
We’ll stand by Ireland, Obama assured the adoring crowds in College Green, after they had been uplifted by the dancing Jedward twin monkeys. Stand by was the operative phrase. When a proposal was made to impose losses on the bondholders for whom we now all work, it was Obama’s treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, who vetoed the suggestion.
And where was Barack O’Bama of the Little People while Tim did the dirty work?
Why, standing by, of course.