Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Irishman by Any Other Name

This joke from Elinor Teele's review of The Irish Americans: A History:
My great great grandmother insisted on calling her County Dingle maid Marie, real name Catherine, since her Irish cook had the same name.
reminds me of my favorite joke from Florence King's commemoration of Lizzie Borden as the quintessential WASP:
Bridget, 26 and pretty in a big-boned, countrified way, had been in the Bordens' service for almost three years at the time of the murders.

. . . Bridget adored Lizzie. Victoria Lincoln, the late novelist, whose parents were neighbors of the Bordens, wrote in her study of the case: "De haut en bas, Lizzie was always kind." Her habit of calling Bridget "Maggie" has been attributed to laziness (Maggie was the name of a former maid), but I think it was an extremity of tact. In that time and place, the name Bridget was synonymous with "Irish maid." Like Rastus in minstrel-show jokes, it was derisory, so Lizzie substituted another.

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