Day 60

Social Distancing

Sixty days! We’ve been playing hide and seek from each other for sixty days! Somebody should have won by now.

So, where are we now then? (Yes, ‘now’ and ‘then’ are allowed to be forenenst each other in a sentence like that without breaking the space-time continuum, which does not exist, by the way. You may as well make up a colour-taste continuum if you are going to go around linking separate abstract nouns like that with a hyphen.)

So, where are we now then? (That is not a time-loop; just a reminder for the slow of understanding among(s)t us. Gives me an excuse to link to this, though.) I am in the hacienda which is situated in County Antrim which is on an island called Ireland which is one constituent island of the geographical unit known as The British Isles. Now (and then) [stop it! You’ll confuse them. -Ed.] maybe only one, two at a stretch, of the physical locations mentioned in the previous sentence is not subject to heated dispute. Here are a few politically-disputed terms for good, bad or middling measure. County Antrim (and the hacienda with it) is also a constituent element of the political area known as Northern Ireland, which itself is a component part of the political area known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just The United Kingdom to its friends, if it had any.

Several readers of this blog have just exploded, by the way. One or two others are planning explosions, but not of themselves. Allow me to talk you through this disputed territory. (Hands up who did not see what I did there?) For a kick-off, there are those who object to the perfectly innocent geographical term The British Isles. Make yourself a coffee and read that linked article first, and then I’ll get back to you …

… OK? Are you now enlightened, or further confused? The clinching argument for me is that there is a sea between the main islands of The British Isles (because that geographical term includes minor islands as well such as Tory, Rathlin and the Isle of Man), and the, undisputed, name of that sea is The Irish Sea. Now given that our British neighbours do not raise a hue and cry over this and demand that it be called the Anglo-Irish Channel or some other atrocity, we should just bite the bullet, play cricket and accept the handy term as it is. Recoursing to the term in Irish for the area is of no use in this instance, as the term in Irish – Éire agus an Bhreatain Mhór – is incorrect, geographically, excluding as it does Tory, which has its own king, usually, and whose people talk of ‘going to Ireland’ when they leave the island; the Isle of Man, among(s)t other islands, is likewise not incorporated in the Irish term. (That bracketed ‘s’ by the way is a biting satire on some politicians and civil servants from this bedevilled place who are labouring under the misapprehension that there is some difference in meaning between ‘among’ and ‘amongst’, or that one of them is posher.)

The problem, of course, is with the ‘British’. [You know that that sentence works also without the perverted commas around the demonym, don’t you? – Ed.] (Of course I do. What do you want me to do, charge you twice for the one sentence if there is a meaning between the lines? We’d be here all day.) The inhabitants of the islands in question were never all Britons – Tory included, which used to be populated by Submarines – so the demonym might actually be an ethnonym. But, fruck it! We keep the Irish Sea and the Brits keep The British Isles, agreed?

Moving swiftly on [if only! – Ed.] to the other disputed terms, there are, currently, two jurisdictions on the island called Ireland, although this has not always been the case (NB DUP). One of them, rather confusingly, is called Ireland, in English, but in this blog is referred to as Mexico because … Its name is not now, and never has been, the Republic of Ireland; that is its description, not its name (nerds can read why here).The other one is called many things – shithole, Norn Iron, Ulster – but its actual name is Northern Ireland, in English, and this causes problems for some people who reject Partition and who tie themselves in linguistic knots trying to avoid using it. Thus we have euphemisms such as ‘the six counties’ [the sick counties? – Ed.], ‘the North’, ‘this part of the country’, ‘up here’ etc. For God’s sake, lads, catch a grip and call a spade a spade, will yis? Your mouth will not fall off if it utters the words ‘Northern Ireland’, and, as it is not going to be around for much longer, you will not have to do it for long. And rejecting Partition now that you voted for it in the Good Friday Agreement is akin to rejecting your dinner after you have eaten it. My dead Ma’s [as opposed to your live Ma? – Ed.] term for the place – the Annex – had its merits, but I prefer just to stick to the facts, Ma’am.

Where I do have a problem is with the term in Irish for Northern Ireland. Just because it is incorrect, linguistically, politically and stylistically. Tuaisceart Éireann is the term in question, and it no more means Northern Ireland than the man in the moon. The first word means ‘North’ and the second word is attempting to be the genitive case of the word for Ireland in Irish, which is Éire. Attempting, but failing. Like Galway, Éire requires the definite article when in the genitive case – na hÉireann – so Éireann by itself, if it was allowed to exist by itself (will I charge you double there?), could only be trying to mean ‘of an Ireland’. So the whole term, in my mind if in no others, equates to ‘North of an Ireland’. And your guess is as good as man as to where that might be. Norway, maybe?

County divisions were imposed on the island of Ireland by the Brits, so there are those who reject them for that reason. But, for sectarian reasons to do with the GAA, the authorities in Northern Ireland have officially done away with designating areas within their bailiwick by county names and now use the name of the local area council. Good luck with that one, lads, although a GAA team representing the Mid-Ulster Council would have a good shot at an Ulster title, I think, and maybe an All-Ireland too if covidnovid ever goes away. On another point [really? you are running out of space, and time – Ed.], some people use the term ‘All-Ireland’ when they are referring to the re-unification of the island into one jurisdiction, and God love them, too: it is a sporting competition, lads; now go and learn how to speak your native language (English) properly. So even the term ‘County Antrim’ is not free from disputation.

Those who know where I actually live would likewise dispute the term hacienda to denote my modest abode. (isolation blues) Which just leaves us with ‘Ireland’ the island as the only undisputed term from my seemingly simple locatory sentence way up there. But, of course, that is not what the island was originally called at all. At all.

I note, however, that the Mexicans have started to refer to their bit of the island by a different moniker recently. This is due to the Kerfuffle, and is an awkward attempt to ensure that the death figures for Ireland do not get mixed up with the death figures for Northern Ireland, although, technically speaking and for legal purposes, the Irish people included in both totals are still indisputably dead. The term they are using is ‘the State’, which is a bit too Big Brother for my liking, and if they don’t stop using it soon I may be forced to pay another visit to government buildings. But at least it is not a semi-state like the Annex is. (Can you see me now, Ma? Happy with that plug, Eddie? And he is British, though he lived in Northern Ireland for a while. But real British, not like the pretend British residents of the place.)

So, where are we now?


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