You know when someone insults you and you can’t come up with an appropriate comeback in time? You seethe over it for hours, sometimes days, until you find that one thing that’ll put your opponent in their place. Well I’ve been brewing a comeback for 2 weeks, so I’m pretty sure that now is as good a time as ever for the Ruinous Retort.
The Burn: My boyfriend is a huge history buff. He is especially enamoured by the histories of great civilizations such as ancient Greece and Rome. I tag along, but with limited free time I tend to stick to classic and contemporary literature, though I deeply wish I had a greater grasp on world history. Lately we’ve been watching a show from the seventies, James Burkes’ Connections, and it was during one of these episodes, in which Burke jumps through time drawing links between innovations made by individuals and civilizations, that my bf turned to me and said (à propos de rien):
“The Irish never really contributed anything to history, did they?”
He said this because I am of Irish descent, and meant it as a jab, to be laughed at and let go. But I am also of Irish temperament, and I refuse to let this one go. What made it worse is that in that moment, I could not think of one thing that the Irish did in history, except the Potato Famine, which is not really a contribution per se. So, in honour of our patron Saint’s celebration on Sunday, here is a feast of rebuke. My boyfriend will have no idea what hit him. Nor will he remember why. But you might say that I am driving the snakes of ignorance out of his opinions on my awesome heritage:
“My darling Matthew, imagine if you will a world without:
Literature: Ireland has one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe (after Greek and Latin). And some of literature’s most influential authors: James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett… do I really need to go on?
Transportation: The Automobile (Ford was of Irish descent) Submarines, Tractors, and Tanks were all invented in Ireland. Now who wants a ride?
Chemistry: yup. Robert Boyle, an Irishman and quite possible my ancestor (how many Boyles could there really be in Ireland) is the 17th century pioneer of chemistry.
Colour Photography: Holy cow I didn’t know this! John Joly from County Down was the first to invent the colour photograph back in 1894. And my grandfather Willard Boyle co-invented the CCD, which helped usher in Digital technology (and won a Nobel for it in 2009).
Splitting the frickin’ Atom!: Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, a physicist from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, won the Nobel for his work with John Cockcroft. In the late 1920s/early 1930s, the two conducted “atom-smashing” experiments at Cambridge University. Walton became the first person to artificially split the atom.
And then, I might say, (just to rile him up) “But what did the Dutch ever contribute to history?” and let him stew (Irish stew) on that for a while.
Postscript: It has been brought to my attention that I forgot about MUSIC!!! The Irish invented the kitchen dance party and celtic music, which have seeped into popular culture in various forms.
Laura is the Marketing Designer at Dundurn Press.