On Irish Grammar


(excerpt from a larger piece)

I walked east up the narrow, walled, one-lane road that led to the N24, the main road from Clare to Limerick. I looked at the castle in the distance, Bunratty, Bun Ráite, mouth of the river. It is the historical seat of the most powerful clan in Munster province, the O’Briens. The castle has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt several times throughout its long history. The first structure was constructed by the Vikings in 970 C.E..  The current structure was built by the MacNamara family in 1425. The last battle waged there was in 1646 when the castle was taken by Irish Confederates. A substantial concrete history; I ran my hand along the wall as I walked.  It was a medieval folk-park-tourist-attraction today. I wondered how the O’Briens, MacNamaras and Irish Confederates would feel about that. I played with a stone in my pocket. A worry stone. I followed the music in the distance and arrived at the pub as the song ended and the musician’s began a repartee.

“Well that was shite.” There was no stage; two men were sitting at a table filled with empty glasses, full ashtrays, tobacco pouches, rolling papers, a cell-phone, and an assortment of picks.

“Pat, you shouldn’t be fuckin’ talking that way in front of the paying guests. Excuse my friend here. He’s no manners a’tall.” He nodded an apology in my general direction. I seemed to be the only paying guest that wasn’t involved in card playing or paper reading at the bar. I assumed everyone else was a regular—a local.

“Oh, bloody hell, Mike, and what kind of language is that? What makes ya think she’s a bloody guest?” Pat sized me up.Doesn’t look very guesty to me.”

Fuck’s an adjective—everyone knows that. And guesty’s not a bloody word.”  Mike replied.

“Actually, the way you used fuck there, it wasn’t an adjective at’all—it was an adverb. And guesty can be a word if I want it to. All the guests are at the castle, now aren’t they, or at Durty Nellie’s.”

“Now that’s shite—adjective, adverb. It’s all the same isn’t it? Something that defines something else.”

“Modifies.” Pat corrected.

“Fuck you. Can we play you a song dear? Some Alan Jackson or Brad Paisley, maybe?”

“And ya used it as an imperative there. He did, didn’t he? Did ya just move to the area? Don’t think I’ve seen ya here before. You’re not a guest are ya?” Pat looked toward me for confirmation.

“Well, I . . .”

“Didn’t I tell ya? She’s not a fuckin’ guest.”

From across the room the bartender yelled, “You’re not bein’ paid to chat up the ladies, but to play music! How about some music?”

Mike and Pat looked indignant. “We’re not bein’ paid at’all. We should try to work at Durty Nellie’s—they’d surely appreciate our talents there. Guinness doesn’t count as payment.”

“The way you drink it, it bloody well does.” the bartender retorted.

“Fuck you.” The two musicians replied in unison.

“See, there it is as an imperative again. I believe it’s an imperative: I command you to fuck! Might be a commandment ‘thou shalt fuck.’ ‘Tis inverted is all.” The two men laughed. “Is there a song you’d like to hear?” Mike picked up his guitar as he spoke, and Pat, one of his many bodhráns, Irish hand drums. They looked at me expectantly.

I was rather dumbfounded.

What was the grammatically correct usage of the work fuck?

Shouldn’t I know this?

Was there a specific song I wanted to hear?

I couldn’t think of one.

The bartender made his way across the large, mostly empty, room. “Sufferin’ Jesus would ya’ just listen to this? Leave it to two drunken Clare-men to discuss the grammatical and biblical qualities of the word fuck. Mary-mother-of-God! You’ll both need to go to confession…

A belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all…

Word Count:  651

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2 thoughts on “On Irish Grammar

  1. Thank you! That was great. I needed to *fucking* laugh.
    I haven’t heard Sufferin Jesus since my grandfather.

  2. Mel,

    You forgot the expletive, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”. My grandmother (from the Haggerty branch of the family) swore it was not really ‘cusing’ which was strictly forbidden but instead a form of prayer to bless those she was about to murder!

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