Wednesday, June 09, 2004


People are quick to mock the Spaniards’ lisp. And rightly so. It does sound a bit odd. If a Madrileño were to enter a Tijuana bar and request “thinco thervethas,” he should not be surprised to exit with the band of his underpants wrapped around his forehead.

But what about the Irish? They have a linguistic quirk that is much more prominent than a mere lisp. You see, the Irish BURP.

By BURP, I don’t mean the audible expulsion of excess gas via the esophagus. I mean BURP as the acronym for Bad Use of Reflexive Pronouns.

For those of you who studied engineering, a reflexive pronoun (e.g., myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves) is used to reflect the action of a verb back to the performer. For example:

She cut herself with a Ginsu knife.
You bought yourself a new Fishin’ Magician.

Seems straight-forward enough. And if everyone followed these simple rules, I might now be writing about that tasty chorizo sausage that I ate in Madrid last weekend. But the Irish have ruined the sausage-fest by taking artistic license with the humble reflexive pronoun. Here is a shocking example taken from an email that I received from an Irish colleague earlier this year. Only the names have been changed to protect my ass.

“Hi Seamus,

Can you help Sal and myself out on the questions below as it was yourself that originated the P.V.B stuff.


Let’s ignore, for a moment, the shockingly omitted comma after the word “below” and focus our energies on the two (TWO!) BURPs in this twenty-word sentence. I think we can all agree on the seriousness of this matter.

So what are we to do? How can we help the Irish help themselves out of this linguistic dungeon? Simple. We must, without exception, be diligent in showing the Irish the error of their ways. And responsibility for such diligence starts at the top. From the UN to the White House to Buckingham Palace, we need to start engaging the Irish in conversations like the following:

Queen Elizabeth: “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Prime Minister. I trust you are well.”

Bertie Ahern: “Very well, your majesty. Very well indeed. And how ‘bout yourself.”

Queen Elizabeth: “BURP!!!!!!!!”

Do you catch my drift? All it takes is a little love, patience and guidance. And then, perhaps someday, the Irish will be speaking English even better the Texans.

[Note from Sal: Obviously, this post is intended to be tongue in cheek. Just poking a little fun at my Irish friends and colleagues. There's nothing in this post that I haven't told them face-to-face. In fact, I think the Irish are great. Really! Without them, we wouldn't have Irish Spring soap. So hate mail or Italian jokes!]


At 3:42 PM, Blogger dansee said...

Wait till u hear about Singapore's Singlish!

It's more animated than the Irish and sentences typically ends with expressions in addition to expressive punctuations:

eg., aiyoh! it's time for another blog lah! very the sian hor...

Nothing to mock about...Singlish is as Singlish does...lisp is a word too *cimp* to describe Singlish..only the bengs and lians can master this well enough :0

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Singapore's singlish seems to have similarities with Canadian English, eh? Or with Wisconsin English, yah heh?


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