Guaranteed to offend someone, but probably not the irish

OK, I admit it. I’m suffering another allergic reaction to political correctness. St. Patrick’s Day has brought it on, and there’s probably no treatment for it but to break out in a rant.

Tonight I bundled up Brenda and we drove to town. We met my brother and his wife there to go to a reading of some prose work by Geronimo Tagatac, a very talented Oregon writer. On the way to town, I started to lose the OPB signal and switched the radio off. Brenda said, “Oh, oh. I forgot to reset Ralph’s radio, the one he listens to in the morning. I changed the station because I was tired of listening to Irish music.”

The reading was terrific and we all had a good time, but on the way home I started thinking about what Brenda had said. I really like Celtic music, but the ballads and instrumentals can pall if you’re in the mood for something else.

My grandmother taught me a lot of Irish songs. She grew up with them; she loved them. She passed them on. St. Patrick’s day was often a raucous occasion around our house. We all new the words to some pretty irreverant and very feisty songs (she taught us some pretty ones, too, like “Irish Lullaby” and “Danny Boy”). And she taught us American songs written about the Irish.

Some of them are probably still played today. At least as I remember the words, “McNamara’s Band” was very lively but pretty innocuous. But I can remember shouting out the words to “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?” and falling on the floor laughing. That song will never be played on the radio today, at least not with the words I learned for it. And I think we are the poorer for that.

Please spare me from the sanitization of our wonderful and various cultures. Something has been lost in our anxiety not to offend, and I miss it. I don’t believe in saying hurtful things, but if someone were to call me a “Mick,” I think a great smile might break out on my face.

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12 Responses to “Guaranteed to offend someone, but probably not the irish”

  1. ombudsben Says:

    Okay, Mick, what’s OPB mean?

    Growing up Swedish-American in Minesota we told Norwegian jokes. All very corny and utterly reversible, of course, which is funny because the Norskis get it wrong and tell ’em about the Swedes.

    I once read that pre-Christian Scandinavians were great smiths and prided themselves on clever tools that had more than one purpose. A specific weapon also had use in cooking, for example. I think, if you’re going to get through winter, that kind of efficiency and foresight is critical.

    So the cultures prize cleverness and as a result tell jokes where the punchline is how clueless the other guys is–and it’s very corny to American ears.

    Our humor is Anglo, western Germanic and Celtic, where the punchline is more often pain or suffering. Doesn’t have to be Stooges or Laurel & Hardy, even recent stuff (Something About Mary, which I heard enough about to know I didn’t want to see), or Richard Pryor on fire.

    I like Pryor, but when I think about some of his early skits, it makes me wince now. Joking about getting beaten by his Dad for coming home late while his friends are still out and going to “pitch a bitch.” It means rape, and it got laughs, back then.

    In comparison, the Nordic humor is corny, but I still like it. What goes:
    Va-room, screech! va-room, screech! va-room, screech! ?
    a Norwegian at a flashing red light.

    But my Dad just re-sent me the Irish joke about the fellow who ordered 3 pints at a time in honor of his brothers, then began ordering only 2, which I’d heard before.

    And I do like the one about the reponses of the Englishman, Scotsman, and Irishman who were served pints with flies in them.

  2. Jeff Moriarty Says:

    You would love the place where I currently work… there are no “St. Patrick’s Day” decorations, only things like “Happy Irish Festival” or some such. Soon we shall converge entirely on celebrations devoid of any meaning or spirit and label them “Generic Holidays 1 to 20”

  3. Nathan Zeldes Says:

    Right on, Marianne! A good, uncensored sense of humor is the essence of being human.

    So what lyrics did you learn for that chowder song??

  4. Barbara Says:

    Oh, I agree. Too much PC is just as bad as not enough. I think it’s the PC-ness of our recent culture that seems to strip people of any sense of humor. I’m all for tolerance, but sometimes we need to just chill out and enjoy life. Surely a good laugh makes us all feel a little more tolerant anyway. It does me. (Must be the endorphins.)

  5. mklekacz Says:

    Ombudsben, sorry about the acronym. That’s what comes from all of those years at Intel. OPB is Oregon Public Broadcasting, the only decent radio station in the state. And I know what you mean about cringing at some humor. I don’t really know where the dividing line is. There is one, but it may be slightly different for each person depending on context. I don’t find rape jokes funny either. I think whether pain is funny depends to some degree on how painful reality is.

    Jeff, all I can say id ARGH-H-H-H-H! This is exactly the sort of thing that makes me completely nuts. March 17 should be a day of rowdiness, green beer, and lots of laughter. It’s a bit like New Year’s–we have, after all, survived another year. And if you have potatoes in storage, as I do, there’s every reason to think we’ll survive another.

    Nathan, the song is an incredibly long (a typical Irish story condition) story about a prank and altercation in a mixed-culture working-man’s boarding house, but the offending lyrics are in the chorus, which goes something like this: “‘Who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?’ / When nobody answered, he shouted all the louder: / ‘It’s an Irish trick it’s true, /
    but I can lick the Mick who threw / the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder.'”

    Of course the problem is in the word “Mick,” which I suppose is why I closed my entry the way I did. I just sometimes feel my world getting grayer than I’d like it.

    Barbara, laughter is the most important pleasure I have (sounds like you agree). Whether it’s endorphins or simply clearing the head of nonsense, a good laugh each day is essential to living, IMNHO. And God knows, there is a lot to be amused about these days, including some fairly serious stuff.

    Here is my favorite joke of the moment. If it came from someone’s blog, I apologize for not simply linking it, but I don’t think it did.

    A Catholic priest, a Baptist minister, and an Orthodox rabbi were called before God, who was tired of all of the religious quibbling. God gave them an assignment: Go out to the forest and convert a grizzly bear. The three left. A week later they all returned. “How did it go?” asked God.

    “Very well indeed,” said the priest. “I have taught him his catechism and the bishop will be out next week to confirm and baptize him.”

    “Ho, ho,” said the minister. “I don’t have to wait for a bishop. I baptized him myself in the river yesterday, and we’re all done.”

    They all turned to the rabbi, who was in a full body cast.

    “And you, Reb?” asked God.

    “Well,” the rabbi answered, “upon consideration, perhaps circumcision wasn’t the right approach.”

  6. mklekacz Says:

    PS: Ombudsben, I forgot to say I REALLY liked the red light joke. And do you mind if I just call you “Ben”? I can’t seem to type your handle correctly the first time.

  7. ombudsben Says:

    Speaking of acronyms, it took me a minute or two to figure out why you addressed me once as “OBB.”
    Duh.
    (It was the 2nd B that threw me.)
    Yes, Ben is fine, Ombud, even a little mystery once in a while, like OBB, whatever. Just don’t call me Norwegian.

    So, had you heard both jokes, about the Irishmen who went from 3 pints to 2, and the Scots, Irish and Englishmen with the flies?

  8. mklekacz Says:

    No, but I’d like to. . .

  9. ombudsben Says:

    As sent to me:

    Dublin & Triplin’
    An Irishman walks into a bar & orders three pints of Guinness and sits in
    the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.

    The bartender says, “You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.”

    The man replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we
    promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days when we drank together.”

    The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it at that.
    Over the years, the man becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way: ordering three pints and drinking them in turn.

    One day, he comes in and orders two pints. All the regulars notice and fall
    silent.

    When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.”

    The Irishman looks confused for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs — “Oh, no,” he says, “Both my brothers are fine. It’s just that I’ve quit drinking.”

  10. ombudsben Says:

    An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman all sat down in a bar together and ordered pints. When the pints arrived, each had a fly in it.

    The Englishman motioned to the waiter, intending to return his to the bar.

    The Irishman, not one to waste beer, flicked out the fly and drank his.

    The Scotsman picked up the fly by its wings, held it over the pint and ordered, “spit it out, you little bastard!”

  11. mklekacz Says:

    Thanks, OBB. You made me giggle.

  12. Heartburn Home Remedy Says:

    Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is a lot more than I expected when I found a link on Furl telling that the info is quite decent. Thanks.

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