Catechism of Cliches: Irish Economic Collapse Edition

by Henry on April 2, 2009

“The NYT”:

the island of saints and scholars … The next parish over, they say … is Boston … the wellspring of poets and balladeers as advertised: those emerald fields, those ruddy-cheeked fishermen warming pub seats, a land of stone and cold wind that produced a lyrical people and a music embraced more than ever by the young. … Every village that had seen nary a rock wall or a cottage window unchanged suddenly had a cul de sac of insta-homes and a half-dozen O’Mansions. Anyone with a mortgage could get rich in little more time than it took for a head of Guinness to settle. … wonderfully brooding town, where David Lean filmed “Ryan’s Daughter,” the sod was peeled back for the worst kind of Southern California housing developments. … beer-soaked backwater … “I left a godly land of broke but merry alcoholics and came back to a place where people who used to dig potatoes were buying luxury apartments sight unseen and driving Porsches.” … marvel at a people burning peat to stay warm against blustery Atlantic winds. … empty new homes tell a story of greed.

Fill in the blanks yerself. In all fairness, a couple of the choicer phrases were quoted by the author from other people’s articles, but others weren’t. I suspect that the author of this piece was especially proud of ‘O’Mansions’ and the Guinness-head-settle as a unit of duration. He shouldn’t be.



koan0215 04.02.09 at 3:53 pm

It is entirely possible that the author wrote this with the intention to create a catechism of cliches, and so has accomplished something awe inspiring.


John 04.02.09 at 4:04 pm

You should cross post this at Test Copy Editors – they love to rip into this sort of rubbish.


John 04.02.09 at 4:05 pm

Oops. Testy.


Uncle Kvetch 04.02.09 at 4:32 pm

And on the front page of today’s Times, “Those Europeans who have been pampered by their cushy nanny-states for so long are about to have a rude awakening.” Part 13,698 in our ongoing series.

I gave up reading the Times years ago, but I still clung to some residual sense that it would be a shame to see it go belly-up. No longer.


John Emerson 04.02.09 at 4:49 pm

Minnesota has ample stock of peat, if the Irish ever run out. The resource was carefully assessed in the nineteenth century, and we’re just waiting for the market to improve.


Steve LaBonne 04.02.09 at 5:13 pm

It is entirely possible that the author wrote this with the intention to create a catechism of cliches, and so has accomplished something awe inspiring.

I have the distinct impression that the Times’s internal style guide must contain a requirement that each reporter do this for EVERY story.


notsneaky 04.02.09 at 5:30 pm

Re1, Right, if this was done on purpose, it’d be a stroke of genius.


notsneaky 04.02.09 at 5:31 pm

….except it’s missing Leprechauns


Jacob Christensen 04.02.09 at 5:54 pm

…the island of saints and scholars…

Does this mean that the categories are mutually exclusive or what?

…the peak of the Celtic tiger period…

I must admit Henry had me worried a bit, but the other CT did make it into the article.


Henry 04.02.09 at 6:13 pm

notsneaky – I had exactly the same thought. Shamrocks get a pass too – but pretty well everything else is in there. And Jacob, I should have put in the Celtic Tiger bit, but after a certain point …


otto 04.02.09 at 8:55 pm

More Irish-blogging please.


James C 04.02.09 at 11:10 pm

“O’Mansions”? Jeebus.


ejh 04.03.09 at 7:46 am

If Ireland qualify for the World Cup Finals you’ll have this stuff on UK television pretty much every night for weeks. It’ll probably be worth setting up a website called GuinnessWatch just to keep track.


Katherine Farmar 04.03.09 at 9:09 am

Help! It’s a Cliché Storm!

The thing of it is that Ireland’s changed so much and so rapidly in the past 20 years that external perceptions of the country are mostly wildly out of date. Even as someone who’s lived through most of it, you can miss things; I went away for the academic year 2003/4, and when I came back every third person on Grafton Street seemed to be speaking Polish. It was very disorienting.


Henry (not the famous one) 04.03.09 at 9:22 am

Is this killing you?
Yes it is.


Jacob Christensen 04.03.09 at 10:45 am

@Henry (the famous one): Trust us – we feel your pain.

I wouldn’t want to think about how an economic breakdown in Denmark or Sweden would be reported.

“Moose rambling through the Astrid Lindgren-like tranquility of abandoned IKEA stores where SAABs stand rusting in the parking lot…”


MH 04.03.09 at 2:32 pm

Even Pittsburgh doesn’t get that many cliches when the NYT comes to town.


Marc 04.03.09 at 5:39 pm

From the comments to the article:
WHO will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the Mansion’s designer shade,
And dance upon the BMW?
Young man, lift up your fine Merlot,
And lift your Gucci handbag, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon money’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the credit cards,
And rules the debtors of the wood,
And the empty piers on the dim sea
And all bankrupted wandering stars.
— honkhonk


notsneaky 04.03.09 at 7:51 pm

Re:13 … and make a drinking game out of it. With Bud Light!


P O'Neill 04.03.09 at 8:45 pm

But surely must be docked points for not mentioning “the greasy till”.


garymar 04.04.09 at 1:22 am

Faith and begorrah, when Pat and Mike read the NYT article over the greasy till, their Guinnesses forgotten at the bar with heads long settled, did they not agree then ‘twas a well-wrought bit of blarney? Yet i’ their opinion, the writer was a bit off the mark, don’t you know.

“‘Tis fine enough,” opined Pat, “but could not he have mentioned County Donegal, and the fields of shamrocks glistening over the cliffs?”

“Stuff the shamrocks,” Mike replied heatedly, “what about the leprechauns? How can a man write of the woes of the Emerald Isle and write nowt of the leprechauns, clad all in green? By the saints and the Blessed Mother o’ God, ‘twas the leprechauns that started this whole Donnybrook, what with their clamourin’ for deregulation in the financial markets, the better to leverage those pots o’ gold they always be carryin’ about with them.”

And they picked up their Guinnesses and laughed bitterly at the thought of the leprechauns, marooned helplessly in their unsellable O’Mansions, bereft of their gold, mortgages unpaid, with nought but last year’s mouldy potatoes to sustain them.

I can do it, and I’m not even Irish.

There’s plenty of oldsters here at CT, so I’d like to ask the older American readers if anyone ever read National Lampoon back in the early ‘70s, and if you did, do you remember the ongoing columns about “Young Patrick Moynihan”? It was all about young Paddy Moynihan growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, with an violent, alcoholic father and a termagant of a mother, fists and frying pans flying and the young Paddy begging his parents not to be killing each other. Very funny parody of cliches about poverty-stricken Irish-Americans.


nick s 04.04.09 at 2:38 am

On the continuing “American clichés of Irishness” series, I caught the opening of tonight’s Wife Swap with some degree of horror at its plastic padditude.


mollymooly 04.04.09 at 3:09 am

At least he wrote “Great Famine” rather than “Great Potato Famine”. Maybe he’d already used up his “potato” quota.


anon/portly 04.04.09 at 6:35 am

….except it’s missing Leprechauns

If the phrase “[i]f Barack Obama …. were to skip across the Irish Sea” isn’t a reference to something elfin, what then is it a reference to? Do Irish folk of regular height ambulate skippily?


ajay 04.07.09 at 2:55 pm

Meanwhile, in Scotland… traditional values of thrift… canny natives… knobbly knees… Gordon Brown, a son of the manse… Presbyterian distaste for wealth and generally grim attitude to life… Adam Smith… David Hume… Alec Home… Lord Balfour… Davey Balfour… “no more impressive sight than a Scotsman on the make”… lured south by the temptations of the metropolis… Darien scheme… Archie Gemmill, 1978… heather, probably…


ajay 04.07.09 at 2:57 pm

Fill in the blanks yerself.

Yer not helping yerself wit using spellings like dat, sure and begob yer not.


Preachy Preach 04.07.09 at 3:28 pm

ajay> You forgot ‘dour’.


ajay 04.07.09 at 4:25 pm

27: good point. Also “thrawn”.


Kenny Easwaran 04.08.09 at 3:50 am

I thought it was a nice companion piece to the Simpsons episode from a couple weeks ago – Ireland was overdue for the treatment they’ve already given to Australia and Brazil and Japan and who knows how many other countries the Simpsons have visited.

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