John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Irish need apply


Sure and it was a grand day when conservatives finally claimed political correctitude for themselves.

William F. Gavin, writing for National Review Online, opines that McCarthyism is a slur against the Irish.

Don’t leave it with me. See what you make of his argument.

After years of scorning the “culture of victimization” and ridiculing style guides that prohibited paddy wagon and dutch treat and welsh on a bet, a conservative stands up to defend an alcoholic senator who made incoherent and unsubstantiated accusations of subversion, and who was ultimately censured (Do you know what it takes for the United States Senate to censure one of its own?) on the basis of defending his Irish Catholic ethnicity.

A different ethnic tradition might term this chutzpa.



13 comments:

  1. Oh, just stop Jewing the Irish out of their complaints.

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  2. My dear lady wife was born beyond the pale. Should she take offense every time the phrase is used?

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  3. The utterest nonsense. I am an Irish (American) Catholic, and not coincidentally, holder of an M.A. in Irish and Irish American literature and culture and I say this is a silly objection, born of revisionism championed by no less repugnant a pundit than Ann Coulter. I am precisely the person he says should be offended. I am not, nor can I imagine any of my family would be.

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  4. This conservative political correctitude has a precedent in 2008's presidential campaign. When a headline writer used "Fuhgeddaboudit!" in a story about Rudolph Giuliani, Giuliani called the word an anti-Italian slur.

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  5. It is not we who use the term "McCarthyism" to describe a political method accurately who defame the Irish. It was McCarthy who brought shame to his heritage.

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  6. Is he going to stop using the word "Marxism"? Is that any less insensitive than "Rosenbergism"?

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  7. When we describe North Korea as "Stalinist", is this offensive to Georgians?

    Is the word "Maoist" a slur against the Chinese?

    It seems like this objection could be raised against any adjective based on a person's name.

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  8. Mr Gavin calls people who use the word "McCarthyism" in vain "bigots". I agree that the use of this term denotes disdain for the Senator and his witch hunting practices. The origin of the name McCarthy is completely irrelevant as many people have noted.

    The fact that Mr. Gavin wants to raise the ire of all Irish people over this practice is short-sided at best and inflammatory at worst.

    Mr. McCarthy, a man who was coincidentally of Irish heritage, spent years hunting for something he called "Communists". It's debatable whether this is what he was actually hunting. First and foremost- it appears he didn't even know what Communism was. He put freedom of speech and artistic expression in its many forms on trial- most of which wasn't communism at all. More importantly- it appears that what he was really hunting was "Power" (for himself & his President) by using an age old form of name calling.

    Using the word "McCarthyism" is a form of name calling but it's not bigotry and not an expression of prejudice toward the Irish. "McCarthyism" references Joseph's behavior. It denotes cowardly "Orwellian" and "Witch Hunting" related acts of government. (I'm sorry- can I say "Orwellian"?)

    However- I strongly disagree that using this word makes you a "bigot"- especially toward Irish people. Bigots are defined as "obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance".

    All that said- I have to admit...I am bigoted. I don't have any tolerance for ignorant, Big Brother-like, witch hunters no matter what their ethnic or racial backgrounds are.

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  9. Patricia the Artistically TerseMarch 20, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    O no! NOt artistic expression on trial! Now you have gone too far.

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  10. No, Anonymous, you can't say "Orwellian"; it's an anti-English slur.

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  11. "you can't say "Orwellian"; it's an anti-English slur."

    Anti-Suffolk maybe, since that's where the river Orwell, from which Eric Blair took his per name, is found. The rest of us English don't care …

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  12. Patricia the TerseMarch 24, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    I have yet to see the entire American-Welsh population rise up against "welsh on a deal." If they did, and if they spoke in Welsh, we'd not understand a word they said. And since when, pray, can we not use the rather benign "Dutch treat?" Really - people are so thin of skin. Wait! Is there a group of thin-skinned people who will object to that?

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