Monday, June 27, 2011

Proud to Be Murkan

I was listening to an interesting documentary on the radio the other night about how island life is dying out on some of the smaller islands around Ireland's coast. Many of the islanders have had to move to the mainland in search of work, and restrictions put in place by the EU have negatively affected the lives of the fishermen and their families. All very serious stuff. The documentary maker interviewed a range of people on this island off Ireland's northwest coast, including some of  the island's teens. And then, once again, I found myself Gripped By Rage. Because while the rest of the islanders spoke with the lovely, melodic, instantly-identifiable tones of County Donegal, the Youth of the Island had a bizarre, distinctly American twang - the accent I like to call 'Murkan': it's not American, no, it's not. No matter how hard you try.

You see, the Youth of Ireland have been hit by a virus: the Murkan Accent. Fighting my way through a flock of schoolchildren in Dublin, I was surprised at the number of young American teens dressed in Irish school uniforms. Double check: they weren't American, they were Irish - imitating a weird kind of American accent. Because, like, it's, like, so kewl and awesome to, like, talk, like, like this. This rendered even more bizarre because none of the Americans I know (and I know a few) speak like this. And any I have heard speak like this were featured in "reality shows" (whose reality is this?) on MTV.

So what's going on here? Obviously, it's far cooler to be from, say, New York than Termonfeckin, Co. Louth. But there's nothing wrong with being from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth (have never been there, but with a name like that, it's on my To Do list). And there's nothing wrong with sounding like you come from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth - as long as other people understand you. Pretending to be from Manhattan when you're actually from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, leads me to wonder if you just don't like who you are and where you're from ... and that makes me a bit sad.

In any case, many teens don't like who they are and where they're from - that's what you learn on the first day of How To Be A Teenager, isn't it? The ironic thing is that the small towns of South Dakota and Wisconsin and Iowa and Tennessee are probably chock-full of bored teenagers who would give their eye-teeth to be from somewhere as glamorous and exotic as Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, and they all probably speak the same way Irish teenagers are trying to (not sure about Tennessee - I haven't yet heard a teenage Paddy try to ape a Nashville accent. Yet.)

Sadly, though, Murkanism is spreading upwards and now I hear an increasing number of portly, middle-aged Irish people developing a strong, misplaced Murkan accent. As a result, I have put together a short guide for Irish readers. This is a set of guidelines, not rules, and they do not apply to American readers - you might be able get away with it. We can't. Therefore I would strongly recommend that after the age of 16, my fellow Irish people cease and desist using any of the following:

Wordless Anecdotes
Use your words. In your indoor vioce. Find a few choice verbs, stir in a couple of pronouns and sprinkle liberally with adjectives. Season with adverbs and recount to your friends.

Oh-Em-Gees
Please do not flap your hands à la a Miss Universe pageant queen, while breathlessly crying, "Oh! Emm! Geee!" If moved thusly, I am sure the Almighty will not smite you for taking his name in vain, but do this all too often and He might fling a bolt of lightning at you in temper.
Or maybe I will in His stead.
You have been warned.

Excessive Intonation
I once read that this bizarre trend originated in popular Aussie soap operas. I don't want to point the finger unjustly at our Antipodean friends, but if this is the case - could you swig by and take this back, please? I'm used to identifying questions by a slick combination of auxilliary verbs (do and did are among my favourites) and a nifty little thing called rising intonation at the end of the sentence. Now that it has become so cool to intonate every statement like a question, I am left quite bewildered when someone says, "I'm hungry? I think I'll eat something?" because I don't know whether they know if they're hungry or whether they're asking me if they are. It's very tiresome. Please stop it.

A Plethora of Likes

In this harsh economic era, the government of Ireland is struggling to make up the country's enormous budget deficit. I have an idea: simply fine people €1,000 for the misuse of the words like (you can use one per sentence), seriously and literally. Any Irishperson who uses the word awesome, particularly those over the age of 30, will be fined €5,000 on the spot. There are a lot of appropriate adjectives that don't sound silly with a Galway or Offaly accent: brilliant, for example. Wonderful. Great. Terrific. Marvellous. Even the much-maligned nice. At a pinch, you could say something was grand. I'd even accept amazing, but it makes me nervous.

P.S. I know I've used italics a lot in this post - I probably shouldn't get so het up. Sorry.

23 comments:

Bri said...

mahahahahahahahahahahahahhaha...Oh my... On behalf of all North Americans I would like to appoligize for your suffering. There more than a few over 30 moms that talk like this at my kids school and gymanstics club and its and its more than I can tolerate, I can't imagine your pain. Maybe we can start up a global support group?

Carla said...

Awesome post. (wink)

Lisa said...

Oh, dear. I don't blame you for getting het up. The only thing worse than a fake American accent would be a fake Irish accent (top o'the marnin' ta ye!!)Or a fake Italian accent (as in Jack's pal in Titanic.)

On second thought, all fake accents are bad. Let's just be, like, ourselves.

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Now see, I'd like to be from a cool sounding place like Termonfeckin, Co. Louth...I must look it up on a map...my biggest pet peeve is how lazy their speech has become...is it really too hard to call me by my full name and not Miss, all day long, especially since I'm no longer a Miss!

And I am truly sorry that our brain cell killing reality shows have been imported to other shores....

Katie K said...

We're talking about globalization here. That's why you're living in Germany. Globalization has its consequences. That's why we'll all be speaking Chinese in a few years time. A lot of Irish living here in the States returned to Ireland it its dragon days, and along with the cross-pollinization of the internet, may have contributed to the changes you're talking about.

Although I hate it when my daughter uses words inappropriately, there are things that Brits say that get on my nerves such as the overusage of adverbs such as "rather" and "very" and "quite". Glad those habits haven't crossed the pond. They also mangle French in France. Not encountering the Irish that often, I'm not tarring y'all with the same brush.

Katie K said...

Did I say dragon? I meant tiger.

Carla said...

May I shamefacedly mention that until a few moments ago I did not realize that I am (A-)Murkan? Oh dear. This is embarrassing on several counts, not the least of which is our (ahem) beloved former president's accent slipping right past me on that one.

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Carla: no, you're American. The Irishperson who's NEVER been to the US yet speaks like a Valley Girl is Murkan. Heave a sigh of relief - you're safe.

Katie: while a lot of Irish people did return from the US during the Celtic Tiger years (R.I.P.), just as many returned from the UK. Despite this - and the fact that half the country is addicted to daily soaps from England - English accents haven't had anything like this kind of impact on Irish people... and the exchange between the UK and Éire is strong. Sadly, in many cases, it's an affectation - especially among young people who think it's "cool", but have never set foot in the US. An American colleague and I were talking about this about three weeks ago, and she insists that it's also "cool" among certain circles in the US to affect a fake British accent or use British words to seem (and I quote) "sophisticated". Probably "rathers" and "quites" a-go-go.

Isn't it interesting how the grass is greener on the other side, and the accents are sexier and more desirable as well? :-))

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. I'm originally from a small town in Iowa and now from Washington State,(America), and I have never, ever used that strange talk that is used on reality t.v. Neither do any of my friends. I also get very, very tired of the use of the word "like" and the fake Valley Girl accent. Please forgive us, one and all. Betsy, Spokane, WA

Carla said...

Whew. I was worried there for a little bit.

Michelle said...

This is a great post! I totally agree with you on this subject. Let me add a bit more for humor. These kids, when they go to college and try to find a job afterward, will NOT know how to spell. Right now they write like they are texting their friends. This is really annoying to me. Combine these two bad habits together and it really sad. I don't feel bad for them because they choose not to learn properly. I'll be an 80 year old fuddy duddy with a high paying job. They'll be flipping burgers.

MissMary said...

Hi from Nashville, Tennessee! Oddly enough, there's a growing immigrant population in Nashville from all over the globe, as well as imports from other states (all trying for that Country Music "sound"? Ugh... fakers!), but I come from a long line of Tennesseans, and yes, I'm proudly a local girl. For awhile, Nashville had a distinct accent unto itself. I remember my great-granny speaking with it: the traffic light would turn "AY-yum-bah" [amber] and we'd go down to the "RIV-ah" [river] over "YON-dah" [yonder]. But that accent is dying out and being replaced by a more general "country" twang, and if not, it's homogenizing into something socially acceptable among hipsters and people with Bachelor of Arts degrees. I'd be more than happy to instruct any young Irish in the fine art of a regional Southern accent. From what I observe here, though, they'd be much more popular using their own. Nothing's quite so sexy as an accent from across the pond (just sayin')!

Annie said...

My daughter had a slight/soft Welsh accent until she started studying at Liverpool University. She has a number of Irish friends there. The only accent I now here when I visit them is ... raucous Scouse. Oh for a bit of Murkan ;)

Ev said...

I've just read your post aloud to my husband who was lamenting the fact that I've been using the word "actually" a little more than I should (I'm 56, btw). He loved it, as did I. You have hit the nail on the head... I blame American "reality" TV (it's not MY reality by any stretch of the imagination!) for the ruination of proper English speaking all over the world.

JacBer said...

I wunder what you'd call the accent the yuffs in NZ talk... it's not murkan, it's more a mixture between laid back Maori fellas, cockney Landan and american gangsta' bro. It's so hard to keep up!

Bri said...

hello again, this isn't a comment for this post, but I wanted you to know that I completed an afghan made fromyour Realta pattern. I did a small post on my blog about it. http://snickerdoodlesbybri.blogspot.com/2011/06/rainbow-realta-aka-stash-busting.html

If there is anything you would like me to change in the post please let me know.
have a good night, Bri

Anonymous said...

I am really really not bothered about how people speak myself. If language didn't go through changes it would all be quite quite dull. I think it is very much a waste of time to be concerned with such an unimportant thing. If things didn't move on we would still be speaking like Shakespeare in England and English wouldn't be spoken in Ireland etc. All these nuances are what gives language colour. There is nothing bad about how Americans speak nor is there anything bad about imitations - in the same way we mimic different nations food styles while not getting close, the food is good anyway. Why be pejorative about how others speak and live their lives? Things don't fall apart because grammar isn't right. Rules are to be broken and half the time are only there so people can think themselves better than the next person. How would we judge a person to be stupid if we didn't have standardized spellings? (And thereby get to feel smug. We forget we all make mistakes, no matter how clever a smarty pants we think we are. ) One of the reasons for bringing in standards perhaps; so we can be holy than thou and judgemental. Life is too short to write off people because of their accent or intonation and it is really rather shallow. There are things that actually do matter going on in the world.

Notice too how no one likes to be criticised. The presumably American person who feels got at by you, in turn has ago at British accents etc in turn (which annoyed me a bit but I understand her feeling snippy in the first place as the post is rather critical in general and if I were American I might have felt peeved too. Incidently I agreed with most of what she said). What we have to remember is that although we have a common language as a base when you have oceans between us it is natural to develop the language differently. It is equally as natural and interesting for those said differences to travel back again. We can choose either to be reconciled or divided by our common language. Man is not an Island.

The Wagstaffs said...

Thanks for posting this. It gave me the laugh of the morning. I love to hear accents from other countries, but have never heard anyone really trying out American accents (there would be so many) Luckily enough, the teens in my area do not talk like what has been mentioned..though the spelling of words is now text lang instead of real english. Scary!

anon said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you blogged here, Gingerbread Lady, especially the bit about intonating statements as though they are questions. It's been driving me bats for several years now, and I think that it's used as a lazy substitute for the almost equally annoying "ja know what ah meeeen?"
The great thing about more-or-less-correct English (or any other language) is that it means we can all understand each other, which is especially important when trying to communicate with people for whom English is not their first language. And I am of the opinion that much of what is wrong in our human world is down to lack of understanding. Making just a little effort to communicate correctly would, I believe, go a long way towards helping to solve a lot of what ails us.
cj

Bethany Hendrickson said...

Many of the kids I knew in high school actually liked using British slang for two reasons: they don't sound like the swear words we're using to hearing so they were less likely to get in trouble for using them, and you hit the nail on the head: they were emulating a culture from which they would rather hail.

As pretentious and affectatious as it was, I did it too. I think the bottom line is that teenagers are just trite and silly no matter what the country. I hear them talk now and think: "PLEASE tell me I wasn't that vapid/irritating/shallow!" :P

I'm working on stasis pods we can put kids into at about 10 and they come out at 25 as mature, responsible, altruistic human beings.

Laura said...

Absolutely LOVE this post in the blog and reading all those VERRRY interresting comments (I am a sixties-gal)

GirlAnachronismE said...

Oh Emm Geee! I, like, seriously love you post? It's like, so totally awesome!

Just a Girl said...

The funny thing to me is that when I was in high-school (about five years ago---yeesh, not long enough!), we'd have "talk like a Brit day," or "speak with a Brogue day," just amongst we teens. ;D I suppose everyone wants to be like everyone else!

It makes me a bit sad to hear about those Irish kids being bored of their own culture too. I've always been so proud of my family's Irish ancestry, and often wished I still had family back in Ireland so I could visit. I hope they (the youth of the Emerald Isle) soon understand how important their heritage is, and stop watching stupid MTV, which most of us sensible young Americans find to be a load of crock! American culture really isn't something that should always be imitated; I'm proud to be an American, and I love my country, but a lot of our modern influences really are not the most sound I'm afraid.