18 December, 2007

Scots vs Irish

If you thought the Picts were confusing (see earlier post), their nomenclature is a model of clarity compared with the Scots and the Irish. Example:

There's a Scottish monastery (Schottenkloster) in Vienna, founded in the 12th century. Why is it so-called? Because it was founded by Irish monks.

(Does this sort of apparent illogic explain the popularity of the "Irish joke"? Discuss.)

This delightful fact was mentioned in passing on Radio 4's Food Programme on Sunday 16 Dec. They were doing a feature on Vienna's Christmas markets, if you want to listen again.


Kit moss said...

There are a couple, at least, of ways the Irish and Scots mixed themselves up..

For one, the Irish raided parts of Western Scotland so often and settled much of it that you still find lots of people in those areas with Irish last names. E.g., Sean Connery.

Also Antrim and some other parts of Northern Irish were settled by Scots. There are lots of Scottish names there then, such as Sorley Boy MacConnell, contemporary with Shane O'Neill who proposed marriage to Elizabeth I. This is also one reason the Protestants were in power there. The English were thrilled.

You say something about an Irish joke.. what joke?

Nan Hawthorne
Blue Lady Tavern

Gabriele Campbell said...

Lol, the Irish monks at Charlemagnes's court were always called Scotus or de Scotia. That mess has a very long tradition. :)

Carla said...

Nan - Yes, indeed, the cross-connections between Ireland and the west of Scotland go back for centuries. Re the "Irish joke", I was referring to the whole genre of jokes that rely on the idea that a particular group is distinguished by being illogical and/or stupid. E.g. "Cleanliness is next to godliness, but only in an Irish dictionary." The English tell them about the Irish, the Irish tell them about the Kerrymen, the Swedes tell them about the Finns, the Norwegians tell them about the Swedes, most of south-east England tells them about Essex girls and everybody tells them about blondes. The exchange "Why is it called the Scottish monastery? Because it was founded by Irish monks" is reminiscent of the form of the "Irish joke".

Gabriele - I thought of your comment about Charlemagne's court when I heard the show! Evidently nothing had changed by the 12th century either.

Rick said...

Just to complicate things more, didn't a lot of the Ulster Protestant settlers come from just the parts of Scotland where the Irish Scoti had settled in the first place?

Carla said...

Rick - Yes, indeed. The potential for confusion is limitless. Actually, it probably just reflects the perennial fact that the one thing that never chages about history is geography. The west of Scotland and the north of Ireland simply aren't that far apart once you've invented something that floats, so you'd expect a constant flow of people and ideas back and forth. With all the ensuing complications.