ArticleRhyme In Its Prime
Dublin Free Walking Tour Southside started right in front of the GPO (General Post Office) building that still sports scars caused by bullets that had been shot during the 1916 Easter Uprising. The guide mentioned the fact and…never said another word about any hostilities for the duration of the tour, the rest of it being devoted to Life and Fun. The very first stop clearly indicated what the Irish idea of Life and Fun (renowned in Ireland as “craic”) was.
The guide stopped in the middle of O'Connell bridge, next to a plaque (on the picture above). It turned out that the plaque, commemorating a previously unknown war hero, had been installed upon request/suggestion of two brothers from Dublin who allegedly produced a proof of that person participating in the War of Independence. After a while some people began to find the “suspicious circumstances” the text referred to, a bit too suspicious. The hero's name, Pat Noise, struck them as possibly being just that, noise! One of the doubters happened to be an investigative journalist…Long story short, Pat Noise was proven to be an absolute fake. He never existed. The name chosen by the brothers was an alliteration of “Pater Noster”, Latin for “Our Father” - and the man depicted, in fact, was their father! In other words, all the plaque-related hype was nothing more than a practical joke. The whole situation bordered on an outrage: a city-approved fake in the very heart of Dublin. Citizens demanded to end the embarrassment by removing the plaque right away, the City Council convened and decided…to keep the plaque where it was. Explanation? “No mere fact should stand in a way of a good story!”
It's good stories that are the heart and soul of Ireland. Some of them are complex and philosophical (like “Ulysses”), others are short and poignant or sympathetic (like “Dubliners”). Some - when it comes to people and events many Irish view as ridiculous - are even shorter, and salty rather than sweet. That's why the man who objectively deserves to be called “The Irish Homer” is known as “A Prick With A Stick”. Quite often, statues on public display would be rhymed in multiple ways - to cover every aspect of the ridicule. For instance, the following harmless saleswoman
has to live with such names as “A Dolly With A Trolley”, “A Flirt In A Skirt”, and “A Tart With A Cart”. Not very friendly but not really hostile, either - not if compared with the abuse suffered by the newest addition to Dublin, a substitute of a blown-up statue of Admiral Nelson.
Officially, the unfortunate object is known as “The Spire” but its unofficial definitions are way less neutral - “A Stiletto In A Ghetto”, “A Stiffey By The Liffey”, and “An Erection At The Intersection”!
Practical jokers with sharp tongues, the Irish know how to appreciate a good pun, too. Dublin's most popular entertainment area is called Temple Bar - an obvious oxymoron, isn't it? Not if you know that “Temple” is the family name of the biggest landlord in that area, and “Bar” has nothing to do with an establishment selling drinks but is rather a tribute to a sandbar located nearby for centuries.
The variety of Irish stories doesn't end here, and the best is yet to come as the following story left its mark not only on a particular statue or city area but on the English language as a whole. It started with a tax, the window tax imposed by the City on business owners. Most paid but the Bank of Ireland - seemingly the most destitute of all of them - decided it couldn't afford to. So, the bank management ordered all of their windows cemented over - and kept working by candle light. That fiscal summersault became known as a “Daylight Robbery”, and - as a New Year's Eve entertainment - I'll leave it to my readers to parse it in as many ways as they can come up with!