Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Few Words About Words

St. Patrick's Day is coming up and, I know I don't usually talk about it, but my family is from Ireland.

I'll give you a moment to get over that bombshell.

I will admit that I find North American people's interpretation of St. Patrick's Day a bit comical. It's a play-by-play of every Irish stereotype wrapped up in a plastic shamrock bow. There is nothing Irish about the way we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. But it's also endearing, in it's own way: everyone in green outfits and plastic shamrocks from head-to-toe while trying out Oirish accents as they order copious pints of Guinness.

Nike decided to get on the St. Patrick's Day bandwagon this year by releasing a line of Irish beer themed shoes just in time for the big day. I, as I am want to do, had a few opinions about this.

I don't have a problem with the drink, Black and Tan, as it's not an Irish drink. People assume it is because of the standard practice of using Guinness for the top, but the drink didn't originate in Ireland and the name can be applied to any two-toned beer combination.

But the shoes. They bug me.

Never mind the fact that a Black and Tan isn't actually an Irish drink, but this is not the first time Nike has put its foot in its mouth when it comes to Ireland. Is there no one in the whole of the Nike corporation that understands how Google works?

The Black and Tans in Irish history were British military units sent to Ireland during the War of Independence. The actions of these men, many of them WWI vets suffering from shell-shock, were nothing short of horrific. Their job was to stop Irish rebels at any cost, and if they suspected that you were a rebel they took a shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude towards handling you.

The name came from their uniforms: khaki pants left over from WWI and dark tops to denote them as members of the Irish Constabulary. You can perhaps see then why naming an article of clothing Black and Tan in a highly misguided attempted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day got my nickers in a knot.

All this leads me to a drink name I do have a problem with: the Irish Car Bomb.

In the past, I've had friends offer to buy me this drink, Hey Andrea, you're Irish. Let's have an Irish Car Bomb. Ha Ha Ha! I've always declined (and not just because of the name. Who chugs Guinness? Who ruins whiskey by mixing it with Bailey's? Or vice versa?) This is not an Irish drink and its name is offensive. You wouldn't name a drink an Afghan Roadside Bomb, so why is it okay to name one an Irish Car Bomb?

Approximately 3500 people died in Northern Ireland as a result of the Troubles, many of them from car bombs. Countless more were injured. Loyalist. Republican. Catholic. Protestant. Military. Civilian. People died and we think it's acceptable to order it as a drink. While the Troubles are officially over thanks to a bunch of politicians signing a piece of paper, car bombs are still around.

In 1998, mere months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, a car bomb exploded in Omagh killing 29 people and injuring over 200 more. Last April, Omagh was rocked again when the bomb attached to Ronan Kerr's car killed him. Constable Kerr was a new recruit to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He was 25 years old.

If you really want to celebrate Ireland and the Irish this St. Patrick's Day, ask your bartender for a Durty Nelly. It's the exact same drink but with a much less offensive name.

Unless you happened to be named Nelly.


Shannon said...

Wait, your family is Irish? Is that why you keep visiting Ireland?

I agree with you about the Irish Car Bomb (I haven't heard of a Black and Tan, but I do live in a bubble)...I can't imagine ordering one of those any day of the year - it's just not cool.

Erika said...

Well, if nothing else this is an educational opportunity. I admit I hadn't heard of the Black and Tans. Good post!

AndreaClaire said...

I was debating whether or not to say anything. I figured that if I don't tell people, then I can't get upset with them if they don't know... so now you all know :)