Coiste na bhFocal Nua have launched a new campaign to promote Irish a few days ago. Learn on the Loo is a sticker/poster campaign that does exactly what it says. Stickers are being stuck up in the lavatories of the country that include all sorts of phrases in Irish (new words ostensibly) that would primarily be used by drunken patrons to initiate romantic contact.
The phrases themselves are not old school but modern, direct and dirty and will certainly cause lots of patrons to lol or at least giggle while they piddle.
As we all know, many, many promises are made in the pub and we might see some in the coming weeks along the lines of ‘ I really must learn Irish’ or ‘maybe I should go to a class’. These promises will soon be forgotten after a few more jars along with other such as ‘we must meet up more often’ and ‘sure I’ll see you tomorrow to do xxxx’.
But then again that’s not the real point of the campaign and herein lies the beauty of it. It’s an exercise in prestige building, and a very clever one at that.
For a long time Irish has been saddled with a specific image in the public mindset at large, that of a backward, old, rural ‘useless’ language only spoken by bog-monkeys and cross-roads dancing, shelelegh wielding fanatics. Read any Irish mainstream newspaper and you’ll see the periodic article by the self-loathers foaming at the mouth about what is a modern European language recognised at EU level and spoken by hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis. But then again these establishment leaches don’t let facts get in the way of their bile, as An Sionnach Fionn brilliantly points out on a regular basis.
So back to the Loo campaign. What it does do is that it plants a seed in the pub-going crowd’s mind that Irish can be funny, dirty, sexy and irreverent, adjectives not generally associated with the language. Of course many people know this already but it’s the complete opposite of what is force-fed us by the gate-keepers of culture in the traditional media.
So people may forget to go to those classes and not meet up the day after but they will have laughed, learned some rude words and seen just how normal Irish is during their foray into the toilets and if that stays with them then the cultural struggle for prestige and normality for an Ghaeilge will be a very important step closer to being won.
Because at the end of the day, people curse, insult, argue, shag and make love in Irish as well, despite what we are constantly told by those who have a gripe with a long dead Island woman whose book they read over 40 years ago.