Thursday, 23 June 2011
The obsession with Peig
One of the most prominent entries on the seemingly endless list of things that “put people off the Irish language” is Peig Sayers.
Her autobiography, Peig, is said to have turned thousands of Irish students off the language due to its miserable and depressing storyline.
Any online discussion of the Irish language will invariably include a few references to the book and its author.
Just recently our most well known Irish-hating media bigot, Kevin Myers, compared her to the serial killer Fred West, who raped and murdered at least 12 women and young girls.
Generations of "poor blameless citizens" had their childhoods "ruined" by having to read this book in school, according to Mr Myers.
Her "geriatric babblings” were an “educational purgatory” for hundreds of thousands of children.
Ok, Kevin Myers' stock in trade is hyperbole and courting controversy (always from an anti-Irish perspective of course, never an anti-English one), but it's no exaggeration to say that people in Ireland have a unique obsession with this book.
I've never read it and don't know if it's even studied in schools these days, but the idea that having to read a book you don't like can make you hate the language it's written in, and not just the book itself, is ludicrous.
I had to study Charles Dickens' Hard Times in school, and I hated it. I was also utterly bored by French in school, I spent six years learning verbs and essays off by heart, hardly spoke the language at all, and can barely string two words together today.
Do I hate English or French because of this? No. I don't like a book in English I was forced to read or the way I was taught French, not the languages themselves.
So why the obsession with Peig?
Basically Peig has become a metaphor for all the neurotic hangups people have about the Irish language.
Peig is old, rural, poor and depressing. In the minds of people who harp on about the book, Irish has the exact same attributes. It is “associated” with poverty and backwardness.
Some people reject Irish because they genuinely don't have an interest in it, others reject the language because they're afraid people will slag them about being poor and backward in some way if they speak it.
Isn't it time for people to grow up, build a bridge, get over their fear and leave this old woman alone?