The Irish Way of Talking:
The Truth About the Blarney Stone
By Patricia Doherty Hinnebusch
Last Updated September 14, 2010

Blarney or Irish Truth?
Author's Qualifications
Painting Scenes with Artistic License
Storytelling and Composition
The Logic of the Irish
The Myth of the Blarney Stone
Understanding Kindhearted Whimsy
Talking As An Artform
Books About Ireland and Irish Culture

irelandBlarney or Irish Truth?

There are those who allege that an Irishman wouldn’t know the truth if he were swimming in it. Because I am affronted by the compulsively logical and by all who spitefully make unprovable and outrageous allegations concerning the content of an Irishman’s speech, I propose to elucidate the character and describe the unique qualities of the linguistic facility of the Irish.

Author's Qualifications

I am fully qualified to do so in that all of my ancestors -- the Rileys, Magills, and Browns and the Dohertys, Larkins, and McBrides -- drew their first breaths in the moist and moderate air of the Emerald Isle. (A very few tarried in Great Britain long enough to save passage to America. It diminished their Irishness not a whit.) So, on behalf of my illustrious ancestors and my splendid Irish-American relatives, I begin the elucidations.

ireland Painting Scenes with Artistic License

To an Irishman, an event is as a canvas is to a landscape artist. The artist sees a lovely scene that he must paint. With a trained eye he determines what he will paint. Does he include every leaf and stone? Does his scene end abruptly at the edge of the canvas? Is the coloration that of the "soft" day before him? Of course not, to all three questions.

Storytelling and Composition

His landscape is a composition. In illustrating the beauty of it, he truncates a branch that obscures a blooming bush. He directs the eye beyond the narrow confines of the canvas. He captures the golden light of one hour of sunshine in a day of rain. The painter sees beyond the literal and the linear. Likewise, in the telling of an ordinary event an Irishman employs skills akin to those of the visual artist.

irelandThe Logic of the Irish

Does an Irishman eschew logic? Of course not! He simply takes logic a little further than others do. He realizes that there is more than one truth to be honored in a situation. To illustrate: if one of two adversaries about to duel is discovered to be myopic, an Irishman would certainly let the short-sighted belligerent stand in closer. And if you complimented an Irishman on a hunt who brought down a pheasant, he is likely to dismiss the praise by saying that "the fall would have killed the bird, anyway." And if the event is lacking in the sunshine of humor, why he would add some of his own. Why would he open his mouth if he could not add dimension or pathos or wit or the benefit of a liberated logic to the scene before him?

The Myth of the Blarney Stone

ireland sceneOne must admire the expansiveness and inclusiveness of Irish speech and reject the pedantic insistence that much of it is "blarney." I have kissed the Blarney Stone myself and bear witness that I have not felt the need to embroider the facts or evade a direct question in the days since 1991 any more than I did prior. That legendary stone in the wall of Blarney Castle and my prolonged tarrying in the grove of magical trees nearby are merely two of countless treasured memories of a land where words, like the wings of a butterfly, let you soar above the mundaneness of everyday life to acquire a proper perspective on reality.

Understanding Kindhearted Whimsy

And as for the suggestion that an Irishman alters his song to harmonize with the music being played, I assert that it is his kind-heartedness which transforms a possibly discordant observation into one that leaves the hearer happier than before. After all, a conversation is a walk two people take together, not a syllogism, a tautology, or a legal disputation. And it is confidence in his own conversational talent that frees him to delight in the whimsy and wit of others and, probably, add it to his repertoire on a day when his own imagination is sleeping late. On the tedious days that befall each of us, Irish whimsy and obliqueness and extension of the truth surely enrich the telling of commonplace matters.

irelandTalking as an Art Form

Ireland is a nation whose capacity for talk is exceeded by none and equaled by few. For the less gifted it is a folk art; for the accomplished practitioner, talk is a fine art. Talking is the natural condition of an Irishman. It is what his lungs were created for. A well-used pipe gives the sweetest smoke. Similarly, the words that issue from an Irishman’s lungs are the pipes, the pipes that are calling down the years to raise the faltering spirit and restore the smile to Irish eyes.

Books About Ireland and Irish Culture

Try the following recommended books from Amazon on Ireland:
How the Irish Saved Civilization
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Ireland (Country Guide)
The Country Cooking of Ireland
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

© 2001Patricia Doherty Hinnebusch, Writing and Photos


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