Jude Collins

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Say the word

In today's Observer newspaper, there's a reference to Martin O'Neill, the manager of Aston Villa, as 'the Northern Irishman'. Why is that, I wonder? If I was talking about Arsene Wenger, I don't think I'd refer to him as the 'South of France man' (or whichever region he's from) or to Rafael Benitez as the 'North of Spain man'. It's the same reason Linda McCauley of BBC Radio Ulster once informed me that a statement I had made was spoken 'like a true Ulsterman'. If I'd been really clever and bright and alert, I'd have told her she was totally right, since I'd been born, like my mother, in Donegal. That would have been an interesting reply, not just because it'd have shown me being alert and witty, not a normal condition for me, but because it would have knocked askew the use of language to support a state. People think that talk of 'The Province' and 'Ulster' and 'The Mainland' are merely linguistic matters but since words don't just express thought but help create thoughts and ways of seeing the world, they're a lot more important than that. And there was you, thinking the bit about a cold front covering 'all of the British Isles' was just a signal to pull on your flannel drawers...

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