Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The "Black Irish" thing

The film "Black Irish", released a couple of months ago, looks like a good movie about an Irish family in South Boston.

The title, though, brings to mind the confusion which I felt when I first heard this phrase used in the US. I assumed that "Black Irish" meant a dark-skinned person from Ireland. But no, it doesn't really. It means (confusingly) a light-skinned Irish person with vaguely Spanish looks, like dark hair and dark eyes. Perhaps related to the addition of Spanish blood to the Irish gene pool after the Spanish Armada sank off the West Coast and the Spanish sailors swam ashore (some to be slaughtered on the spot, but others lived on in Ireland and intermixed with the locals).

Whatever the origin, "Black Irish" is a phrase used in the US that, like naming drinks "Irish Car Bombs", I would like to see just go away. Something about it makes me uneasy. It seems to imply that all Irish people are white, just different degrees of white. But, Ireland is fairly multi-ethnic now, so that makes no sense.

Footnote: If you're ever in Ireland looking for the Spanish Armada, there is this amusing road sign I photographed in Mayo ("they went that-away!")

No comments: