Today this blog has been taken over by Irish Ne-er-Do-Well Jeanine Cummins, who has managed to author two books (A Rip in Heaven and The Outside Boy) and have two children in the midst of her general from-across-the-gloomy-sea unruliness, which is only exacerbated on days like today. Her no-doubt sinister post about Irishness and mermaids follows. With love and apologies, Carolyn
There is a “famous Irish” saying (used almost exclusively by American east coast morning newscasters) that: Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! Seriously – watch Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira this morning. Take a shot of Jameson every time they say it. You’ll be drunk by nine a.m. So, in the spirit of that somewhat ridiculous sentiment, and because I don’t like to discriminate, I propose that mermaids, too, are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I invite you to join me – today only! – at I am a McMermaid dot com. Resident Mermaid Expert Carolyn Turgeon is off somewhere, wearing shamrock deely-boppers and drinking green beer by the truckload. Meanwhile, I’m Jeanine and I’ll be your substitute teacher.
POP QUIZ TIME. Get out your notebooks. Don’t be nervous. Just answer the questions to the best of your ability. Whoever gets the most right (or leaves the best comment) will win a *REAL IRISH MERMAID!* (while supplies last). Alternate prize: a signed copy of Mermaid and a signed copy of my novel, The Outside Boy. Let’s begin.
1. Q: True or False: St. Patrick was actually a mermaid.
A: The answer is “C”- no one really knows for certain. I mean, I feel it’s unlikely that he was a mermaid, but I don’t like to give a definitive FALSE, because honestly, all things are possible with God.
2. Q: The Irish word for mermaid is:
a. Mermaid (duh!)
A: The answer is “C” – merrow, which comes from the Irish words “muir” for “sea” +“oigh” meaning “maid.”
3. Q: In William Butler Yeats’ “The Lady of Gollerus,” what color is the merrow’s hair?
a. Red. Just like Disney’s Ariel, of course.
b. Red. I mean, she is Irish, right?
c. Red. The color of flame. For poetic juxtaposition and stuff.
A. The answer is “D” – “a beautiful young creature combing her hair, which was of a sea-green colour; and now the salt water shining on it appeared, in the morning light, like the melted butter upon cabbage.” If you read only one William Butler Yeats story about mermaids this Paddy’s day, make it this one. It’s gorgeous and funny and very short.
4. Q: In Irish mythology, the merrow has a magical article of clothing that allows her to breathe underwater. If a human man steals and hides this article from the merrow, then she has no choice but to remain ashore with him. Is the article:
a. A clamshell necklace
b. A little red cap
c. A seahorse bellybutton ring
d. Sequined nipple-tassels
A: The answer is “B” – a little red cap. I know, weird, right?
5. According to the The Annals of the Four Masters, which is a real-life ancient text on the history of medieval Ireland, in the year 887, and giant mermaid washed up on Celtic shores. She measured 195 tall, and her hair was 18 feet long. What length were her fingers?
a. 7 feet
b. 12 feet
c. 17 feet
d. 21 feet
A: The answer is “A” – seven feet, but this account is obviously flawed. How could all of her fingers be the same length? What was she, some kind of freak?
Okay, you can put your notebooks away. You all did very well. You may have noticed that I actually gave you the answers as we went along. So whoever leaves the most astute and insightful comment (as judged by Ms. Turgeon and myself) will win the prize.
I leave you with this: last night, my three-year-old daughter dreamed of a swing made from a purple seashell. I feel like that’s pretty reliable evidence for the existence of Irish mermaids. As if you needed convincing.