What’s in a name?

… That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Juliet’s soliloquy, (II, ii, 44-45), of course and now so clichéed as to need an occasional reference for respectability.

And then there’s the vexed question of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. In English, this is “Northern Ireland”  — though the most northernly part of Ireland is Malin Head, which is in Donegal — and so, in the parlance, paradoxically in the “South”. Nor, of course, is a Northern Irishman exclusively an “Ulsterman” — because Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are in the ancient province of Ulaidh, but are not in Northern Ireland.

My passport’s green

MorrisonMotionEven among the northern (missing capital deliberately so — see more on this below) Irish there is no agreement on what one is: British? Irish? Northern Irish? Ulster Scots? When Penguin Books included Seamus Heaney with Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian and Paul Muldoon, in the The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry, he was the one who famously objected:

Don’t be surprised if I demur, for, be advised
My passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
To toast The Queen.

He made up for it, though, at Dublin Castle in May 2011.

The People with No Name

k7173That is the title of a fine book by Patrick Griffin, in Malcolm’s view the best account of the Ulster protestant diaspora who occupied and extended the Western frontier of the American colonies. It is subtitled: Ireland’s Ulster Scots, America’s Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764.

The opening paragraph of that book illustrates the nominal confusions with a variety of names:

BETWEEN 1718 and 1775, more than 100,000 men and women journeyed from the Irish province of Ulster to the American colonies. Their migration represented the single largest movement of any group from the British Isles to British North America during the eighteenth century. In a first wave beginning in 1718 and cresting in 1729, these people outnumbered all others sailing across the Atlantic, with the notable exception of those bound to the New World in slave ships. By sheer force of numbers, this earliest generation of migrants had a profound influence on the great transformations of the age. Even before they left Ulster, they contributed to the triumph of the Protestant cause in Ireland, paving the way for an unprecedented extension of English power into the kingdom. They also figured prominently in the British transatlantic trading system by producing linen, one of the most important commodities exchanged throughout the empire. Sailing when they did, Ulster’s Presbyterian migrants played a formative role in the transition from an English to a British Atlantic. Before their migration, Puritans and adventurers leaving England during the seventeenth century for the North American mainland and the Caribbean dominated the transatlantic world. After men and women from Ulster boarded ships for America, the cultural parameters of the Atlantic broadened, as they and thousands of land-hungry voyagers from the labor-rich peripheries of the British Isles sought their fortunes in a vast, underpopulated New World. In America, Ulster’s men and women again had a hand in a number of defining developments of the period, including the displacement of the continent’s indigenous peoples, the extension of the frontier, the growth of ethnic diversity, and the outbreak of religious revivals. In the abstract, therefore, the group contributed to the forces and processes that dwarfed the individual but yoked together disparate regions into a broad Atlantic system.

The editor of Gaelscéal, Ciarán Dunbar, has picked up Griffin’s essential thesis, inverted it, and now puts up a ruminative thread on Slugger O’Toole:

Whilst working on Gaelscéal on Tuesday last I realized that I did not know the correct Irish term for ‘Northern Irish,’ so I quickly checked focal.ie, the ‘National Terminology Database’ for Irish.

That was a fruitless journey for they had no such term, I requested they provide one.

The term was one I have strangely never needed in Irish and I have never thought about it to date.

On the day, we simply used the English term in single speech marks.

That night I heard two terms used on TG4, ‘Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh’, agus ‘Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha’, both translating into English as  ‘Northern Irish’ but with a subtle difference in meaning in Irish which the English doesn’t capture.

One implies a mere geographical distinction, the other, perhaps, a clear political distinction.

A meaningless distinction for most but one could argue that constitutional  future of the Northern Ireland state rests on this distinction, whether the Northern Irish are ‘Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh’ or ‘Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha’ at the end of the day.

Malcolm queries whether English cannot capture precisely the distinction between Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh, and Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha by doing what he did above: capitalising or not the “n” of “northern”.

Proconsul

Beyond that, the thread provided Malcolm with a bit of further diversion, the Latin version of wikipedia. Yes, indeed: there is one — even if somewhat abbreviated for the present. And here is its definitive statement on the topic:

Hibernia Septentrionalis, quondam (H)ultonia (AngliceNorthern IrelandHiberniceTuaisceart Éireann) est provincia in Hibernia et Regno Britanniarum. Caput est Belfastium et dux gubernationis est Petrus Robinson; ille est dux factionis civilis qui appellatur Factio Unionistarum Democratica. Successit Reverendum Ioannem Paisley, qui abdicavit in Iunio 2008. Proconsul est Martinus McGuinness. Ille est membrum factionis civilis Sinn Fein (Latine: Nos Ipsi), olim dux Exercitus Republicani Hibernici.

Apart from stroking Malcolm’s self-esteem (that even after half-a-century, his TCD Latin, ever so rusty, can still cope), there were several amusements in that.

One was Máirtín Mag Aonghusa transmogrified from the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland into the far more concise, even poetic, ‘proconsul’. Which instantly directed Malcolm’s butterfly mind to Kipling:

Years betweenThe overfaithful sword returns the user
His heart’s desire at price of his heart’s blood.
The clamour of the arrogant accuser
Wastes that one hour we needed to make good
This was foretold of old at our outgoing;
This we accepted who have squandered, knowing,
The strength and glory of our reputations
At the day’s need, as it were dross, to guard
The tender and new-dedicate foundations
Against the sea we fear — not man’s award.

The subject there was originally Sir Alfred Milner, who was the British High Commissioner in South Africa during the Boer War. The “Oh, gosh!” thing is, stripping from one context to the other, the elevation of  Máirtín to ‘proconsul’ almost works.

“Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt”

Moving swiftly on, there is the conceit of Petrus Robinson, dux Factionis Unionistarum Democraticae (3rd declension, feminine: genitive case!). Thus rendering the DUP into Latin gives us the acronym FUD:

generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor’s product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.

In the case of the DUP, precisely.

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Filed under DUP, Ireland, Literature, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Rudyard Kipling, Seamus Heaney, Slugger O'Toole, Trinity College Dublin, Troubles, United States

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