Anything but English

You see a lot of this in America and Australia, especially around St. Patrick’s day:

It’s supposed to be the result of a DNA test showing someone’s ancestry, but I suspect it has all the authenticity of a fortune teller’s output. For a start, Scotland and Wales are part of Great Britain. Do people’s DNA differ between Wales and England? Not likely. The same is probably true for Scotland and England. If it isn’t, then Ireland, Scotland, and Wales shouldn’t be lumped in together.

What this is about is giving colonials the impression they have some Gaelic or Celtic blood, which conjours up romantic images of Mel Gibson and twee cottages on the cliffs of Ireland. What they really don’t want to hear is that they’re English because, as everyone knows, they spent centuries riding around on horseback in spotless finery oppressing anyone who didn’t use received pronunciation. That’s why England doesn’t get mentioned in the chart above.

So desperate are the colonials to not appear English, they fail to understand how percentages work. “I’m a quarter Irish on my father’s side,” they declare. “That’s why we called our son Liam.” So what are the other three-quarters? English, of course, but they don’t boast that Grandpa was from Essex and call their kid Kev.

On a similar subject, it’s interesting to note how St. Patrick’s day has become a meaningless excuse to get hammered while displaying just about every ignorant stereotype about Irish people you can imagine. If you were to do this with any other group, you’d have Plod arresting people for hate crimes en masse, but the Irish seem to endorse this farce. Or at least, they don’t complain about it. I do wonder what they think, though: of all the people I saw on social media over the weekend dressed as leprechauns and dyeing everything green, none of them were actually Irish. Back when I was in university my Irish mate used to celebrate St. Patrick’s day by going to the nearest Irish pub and drinking a few pints of Guinness and I used to join him, but it was nothing like the circus it is now. I don’t think he’s bothered with it in years, and nor have I.

Then again, perhaps it’s a fitting metaphor for the country itself, which is looking increasingly like a tacky tourist attraction run by people who sold themselves out years ago and support a version of history and culture which is largely imagined.

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21 thoughts on “Anything but English

  1. The ancestry.com DNA test shows a grouping for Ireland and another for mainland Britain. Their database didn’t distinguish between the DNA of Bath vs Cardiff.

    The false ethnic memory thing is funniest in colonies such as Australia where obscure Irish and Scottish names litter the school register.

    It’s only when they are adults and visit Edinburgh and are surprised nobody else is called Hamish that they get an inkling into the phenomenon.

  2. When I lived in Dublin, the local tradition among my Irish friends was to spend St Patrick’s day pulling drunk American women. Of course, that’s was before anyone had ever heard of ‘cultural appropriation’.

  3. Have the plastic Paddy pubs of “our day” all been closed down for cultural appropriation yet?

  4. One of the BBC sports news presenters was wearing the greenest tie I’ve ever seen on Saturday. Fair enough, but do we think any of them would be allowed to wear a cross of St George tie on 23rd April, even if any wanted to?

  5. The whole paddy’s day thing is utter bollix. A vile Americanism transplanted globally. It’s so God damned important that the Irish pm and half the cabinet use it as an excuse for an American holiday.

    That’s right, the only nation in the world where the head of government celebrates the national holiday outside the country

    I kid you knot… Fecking gobshites….

  6. That’s right, the only nation in the world where the head of government celebrates the national holiday outside the country

    Ah yes, and joined in with the New York mayor to celebrate that great Irish statesman…Gerry Adams!

  7. The thirst for ‘Celtic’ roots is a strange phenomenon alright, not least as the first generation to get out of these places are often very happy to explain how bloody awful they were – that’s why they left.

  8. I was pleased to see you were thinking about the same issues this weekend. Saint Patrick’s Day always brings into focus the strange and absurd identifications many of my neighbours engage in.

    I am of the opinion that what you are is where you are from and where you are now.

    Yet I’ve met people born in Southern England, with one English parent and one Irish/AN Other, schooled in England, lived and lives in England claim that they are the nationality of the other parent.

    It is strange because nationality is not tied to blood per se, I am British and English because I exist and am socialised in those existing nations. My mother was Scottish and all my extended family are Scottish, but I am not Scottish, as I am not from that nation, or exist there now. How can I claim a nationality when I am not remotely part of the nation and never had been.

    Yet for many, despite being born in Staines and only ever visiting the Celtic nations for Holidays/family events, they claim in their Southern English accents, mannerisms, experience, friends, attitudes, politics and pretty much everything else, that they are indeed from another country.

    Its a juvenile absurdity and desire from a romantic view that they are different from everyone else (as if most people in England dont have Irish ancestry in the last 4 generations) and they can play the romantic underdog.

    I think the Anglo/British – something else is a genuine experience, having both parents from somewhere else does impact on your orientation, experiences and culture, but within the mainframe of the UK/England. But someone having a grandparent or even just one parent isnt enough to superceed their majority experience of living just like the rest of us here in England.

  9. It’s always hilarious to watch left-wing American college girls celebrating a country which in some respects makes Texas look like a bastion of unfettered progressivism…

  10. “I’m a quarter Irish on my father’s side,” they declare. “That’s why we called our son Liam.” So what are the other three-quarters? English, of course, but they don’t boast that Grandpa was from Essex and call their kid Kev.

    Pedant interjection: Kev(in) is another Gaelic Irish name, which became popular on your side of the Irish sea a couple of generations before Liam did.

    Liam, by the way, is a Gaelic version of William.

  11. My Irish grandfather was refreshingly outspoken about how horrible were the Irish people among whom he grew up: drunken, dishonest, violent, and priest-ridden. He thought most British people underestimated the awfulness of it all.

    That was all a long time ago, you may say. True. But some of it was still true until recently, was it not? Perhaps some of it is true still.

  12. Rob, isn’t it as much the absence of such a thing as southern English identity? At least, one one would want to make a song and dance of?

    OK there is a London identiy and an Essex identity, but really no others. Nothing to compete with either the “generic” northern identity or the many subdivisions thereof.

    Cue explosion of offence from those in Berkshire, Dorset, and Oxfordshire. It’s not that you don’t exist but that you don’t have global recognition of what marks out people from those places.

  13. Past few years I’ve seen a couple DNA maps of Britain and Ireland and there are something like 25 distinct clusters in UK and 20 distinct clusters in Ireland.
    ————–

    The Romans, Vikings and Normans may have ruled or invaded the British for hundreds of years, but they left barely a trace on our DNA, the first detailed study of the genetics of British people has revealed.

    The analysis shows that the Anglo-Saxons were the only conquering force, around 400-500 AD, to substantially alter the country’s genetic makeup, with most white British people now owing almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/18/genetic-study-30-percent-white-british-dna-german-ancestry

  14. On a similar subject, it’s interesting to note how St. Patrick’s day has become a meaningless excuse to get hammered while displaying just about every ignorant stereotype about Irish people you can imagine.

    I’m five generations of Canadian on both sides, but eventually my father’s family goes back to Ireland and my mother’s to Germany. I grew up in a city with (allegedly) the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich. As the German population dies off and is diluted by city growth, the local Oktoberfest has become the same kind of excuse for university students to get drunk in public.

  15. As the German population dies off and is diluted by city growth, the local Oktoberfest has become the same kind of excuse for university students to get drunk in public.

    Indeed, I’ve noticed quite a few non-German cities are now holding their own Oktoberfests which are pretty much the same as St Patrick’s days only with different clothes.

  16. Daniel Ream I have friend who live downtown Kitchener and a friend from Ireland was visiting a few years ago. He walked around town for first few days and I had dinner with them – Irish guy said it was a German town and I told him about name change from Berlin to Kitchener during world war one. German influence lives on even tho there are fewer Germans around. I attended university Guelph and thought Oktoberfest was much more fun than St Patrick’s day, I went to a few oktoberfests and really enjoyed myself.

  17. …quite a few non-German cities are now holding their own Oktoberfests which are pretty much the same as St Patrick’s days only with different clothes.

    “Follow the money”, as they say. It’s all about them duckets.

    As for Ireland, a few short years ago – and perhaps still today – you could qualify for Irish citizenship if you had just one Irish person in your family within three generations, i.e. you needed at least one Irish grandparent. (Or is that two generations?)

    I can’t be arsed looking up the numbers, but what with the general crappiness of Ireland potato famines and other depradations of the bastard English, the place has become significantly depopulated. So they’re very keen to encourage Irishness among the diaspora, since that’s the only way to get some of the buggers to come back. Or at least some of the buggers’s money.

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