I overheard in the canteen at my local Poetry College on Aungier Street in Dublin city center south this morning, a table of year five bardic students talking about this very thing of "how mispronouncing names is a slight that can cut deep."
The trainee literary poets undertaking the studies of the Cano ('cub/whelp') grade, from overhearing them, I deduced had been told by their tutor, an Anruth ('noble stream') student in the tenth year of their twelve year studies, Amhlaoibh Ó Deasmhumhna; to read and discuss this very subject.
Of how consistently not getting the names of people, places and things right, is a sign of cultural imperialism and indicates how the dominant culture and its people do not value them. And can lead to exactly what we have today, specifically in the teaching of the basic principles of poetry, and in the wider culture generally.
I am assuming that they must have been asked to read the article in preparation for their twice weekly class on Bretha Nemed Toísech, "The first Bretha nemed ('Judgments concerning privileged persons')".
An 8C poetico-legal text defining and outlining in the highly arcane heavily alliterative and obfuscating Old Irish metrical rosc language; the rights, roles, honor prices, responsibilities, obligations and privileges of the various clerical, secular and bardic grades of Ireland's early literary people and poets.
I say that their tutor must have instructed them to read this article on cultural sensitivity, because as I sat down with my apple and water, and the latest collection of an award-winning book of literary criticism I am reading by a North Dakota academic, Eew Noslarc Sredna, on the Primacy of the Ideas of Pound in the Poetry of Charles Reznikoff, with ten minutes to idle before my own Emotional Wellness Class of Shout Therapy, in which we all unburden ourselves by yelling out at the tutor all the many slights and hurts we have accrued over the previous week; I heard a very passionate year five Cano student on the adjacent table, who one of the other students referred to by the name of Duibhghiolla, reading out this passage from the article:
"The tale of a Portland, Ore.-area student with a traditional Chinese name who had her name garbled by a vice principal during an honors ceremony. Set to present the student with an award, the principal laughed at his mistake, drawing chuckles from the audience.
To avoid embarrassment, the student slumped in her seat, refusing to rise to receive the prestigious award. She later skipped her graduation.
The mispronunciation wasn't an isolated event. Having endured years of slights, she felt the need to become invisible long before the principal's laughter marked the tipping point.
The woman, who went on to become an educator, changed her first name to 'Anita.'"
Another student they were calling Luighseach then spoke a diatribe of such offensiveness to me personally, that I reported her to the Head of Security Services of the Poetry College, Stíofáinín McBlert, who promptly issued an on the spot fixed-fine penalty notice for "inappropriate speech contravening the Community Standards problematic speech code", and a mandatory notice to attend a cultural awareness program.
Though contentious, in the spirit of mature adult debate I am reprinting here what I overheard, as an example of what can happen when someone, unthinkingly perhaps, oppresses others with cultural superiority because s/he has not taken the time to learn and understand the most basic stuff in the culture of others.
And as a cautionary example to the lower bardic orders toiling away in the mills of the American (MFA) Poetry Community seeking the linguistic light of truth one finds there in these eminent and noble Knowledge Factories teaching, training and turning out generation after generation after generation of poets in this ancient and illustrious MFA Poetry Tradition that curates the heart and reveals the soul of US mouth-music.
WARNING. WARNING. WARNING. ADVISORY NOTICE. IT IS ADVISED THAT THE CONTENT BELOW SHOULD BE READ BY ONLY ADULT STUDENTS FROM DOSS/BUSH (FOUR-LEAVED) GRADE ONWARD.
I, Siomha Ó Dálaigh, do not accept liability for any negative and distressful impact the below words create on the appropriately advised Reader. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, Duibhghiolla, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
"This anecdote could be wholly fictional as there is no footnote to who this 'Anita' person is. We do not know if it is real.
Yet it is put in there and given quite a prominent place in this really lame argument that mispronouncing names is summat that should be up there with last year's craze of pulling down statues.
Which, by the way, whatever happened to that? Where's the outrage over statues this year?
I mean, it was of hugely pressing importance last year, out the blue, like an atavistic wave that rose up out of nowhere into the American psyche, and then ended as soon as it began after a lot of angry people smashed stuff up and blamed their doing so on anything and anyone but themselves.
How do we know that 'Anita' wasn't some utter nightmare and diva who spun this tale and gave a wholly self-serving unbalanced and inaccurate version of events to an equally over-sensitive highly theatrical ambitious Facebook friend dreaming the current American dream of destruction and smashing stuff up?
Filled with delusional transitory obsessions and dangerously partisan utterly childish emotion their ego is determined to peddle as factual evidentiary conviction for the beliefs of a delusional twenty five year old Wise Elder feeding on a radioactively negative social-media agenda of taking America out out out.
In what this pap-culture hack and all their equally stupid ruthless luvvie literary friends in the echo-chamber of Facebook have arrogantly emoted is the right way forward because they all agree wholeheartedly and competitively more more more so, that America is no more. America is a foreign country and needs overthrowing by the kids. America is rubbish, the US is a shithole, half those in it need taking outside and left to perish.
A cull is needed. Organized online by emotional projection artists feeding off the BS of each other and always higher and higher the level of total idiocy in the hyperbolic language these jokers claim to be using to spread love and peace, unity and hope, change and equality.
Even though they perhaps may be 100% mistakenly certain all their ideas of smashing everything up is a positive cultural direction, when really they are behaving in a merely infantile manner and want to move the US in entirely dumb directions they imagine in their social-media bubble and ouroboros of full unhinged intellectually cannibalistic group-think; is not culturally backwards but, like, er, like, did ye see that guy, man, checkin 'imself out in the wall, like, checkin 'imself out in the wall, man, like, did ye see that guy, like, like, like, checkin 'imself out in the wall, man. Like, like, like. And not a word on what the adult in the piece, what the Principle has to say on 'Anita''s theatrics.
I mean, is there video of this event where she was so offended about the mispronouncing of her name she flounced out?
Who is 'Anita'?
And the principle who allegedly made a joke of their mispronouncing the name? It is lazy unbalanced reporting by not having their voice air their own version of what happened. They could well say, for example, that 'Anita' was a nightmare student who he spoke to precisely once and he was baffled with her behavior, and learned later she had been suffering from some psychological condition and was on meds, totally bonkers and under the doctor, that big pharma had sunk their claws into the family and all of 'em were on ten different meds a day for made up phony psychological conditions that are a testament to the power of big pharma, capitalism, and cultural and social dysfunction in America today.
Perhaps he could make a few calls, get back to the journalist. Break the news that those that taught her, complained she was a problematic student with a raft of anger and identity issues and views that were were grounded in a deep anger about imperialism, that she blamed the US for all the world's ills and harbored unrealistic expectations of what society owed her; but she had been allowed to develop and propagate them because of the current culture wars.
Though the principle perhaps would not voice this opinion in public. Where language is patrolled and policed by the intolerant not at all liberal left's version of the Saudi and Iranian Morality Police, always alert to any transgression of a strictly enforced code.
Be it on the streets of Portland, or in an extremely problematic poem in the voice of a fictional persona speaking in vernacular spelling that proves problematic and unacceptable speech to the self-appointed Art, Behavioral, Cultural, Literary, Moral, Political, Social, Poetry & Thought Police of the United States of America.
Fully qualified expert American MFA (Toilet Paper) Poetry professionals, pro-actively patrolling the (English) American language; detecting literary crimes, applying pressure, lobbying editors, tweeting instances of concern, conducting campaigns, and battling the many domestic enemies and hate preachers seeking to spread the evil creeds of ableism, anti-feminism, anti-LGBTism, bigotry, disrespect, hatred, intolerance, misogyny, racism, and intellectually illegal and emotionally upsetting linguistic sectarianism of any kind that contravenes the Language Police Community Standards.
Hunting in packs for heretics, apostates, and non-believers in their pie in the sky Poetry Religion founded on the principles of hatred, anti-intellectual bias, censorship, mob intimidation, sweeping injustice, and a fanatically blind intolerance of everything and everyone that doesn't align with and share their insanely dangerous and unhinged, wholly incorrect perceptions of reality as an either/or zero sum game and binary choice between 'us' or 'them'.
Hyper-sensitive and zero-tolerant to any 'problematic' pronunciations, spellings and arrangements of letters that may cause alarm, concern, emotional distress, fear, intellectual injury, and personal discomfort whilst on the online public commons.
Speaking only from the blame side of the poet's tongue, with nothing from the positive praise side about anything except when praising their own virtuous thoughts.
Seeking only to safeguard the American Language homeland from Linguistic Nazification; at the front line, guarding against the creation, promotion, and publishing of any transgressive textual creations and poetically problematic compositions that are published without an accompanying public warning and editorial apology for any offensive and morally unacceptable illist, ableist, racist Thought that went into composing the form of spellings in the most annoying, obnoxious, horrid, repulsive, odious and vile Facebook comments, Tweets, Instagram posts and persona poems."
I made the very courageous decision to publish this disgusting hate speech after becoming inspired by the very brave academic, critic, and unproblematic transitioning language artist formerly known as Stephen Burt.
On reading their profoundly courageous and moving Apologia on the pages of The Nation several weeks ago, when they fearlessly stepped up to the plate and addressed the world on behalf of those committed, concerned, and most caring bards in the American (MFA) Poetry Community, on the subject of the pervasive and problematic cultural awareness issues they themself had unwittingly been a part of.
Until realizing on more focused critical and cultural analysis and contemplative reflection that the text of a recent poem they published in The Nation, was in fact problematic.
And the regrettable decision they and their co-editor made was wholly the fault of the North Dakota, Fargo poet in whose head it was created, and who was thankfully unpersoned in the Apologia by the caring sensitive Harvard academic making this noble decision for the betterment of civil US relations, and as a model example of Leadership in the area of Free Thought.
The problematic poet in question has rightly deactivated his social media and is currently reflecting on the hurt and distress the entirely fictional voice that was created and exists in a wholly cerebral realm, caused and created in the minds of the superlatively civilized and highly educated rank and file members of the Professional Poetry & Language Police, who were mortally offended on behalf of a community of imaginary disabled American street beggars with HIV that use the spelling 'you' to communicate 'you're'.
It was heartening to read so many in the American MFA Poetry Community stand up and lend their voices to support a voiceless marginalized community, and air their outrage and disgust about this first sign of literary Fascism. That must be hounded out of existence as soon as it appears, in order to keep the poetry world and its many diverse communities safe from harm. Showing immense knowledge, wisdom, kindness, warmness, and a thoroughly detailed understanding about the entire concept of poetry being a vehicle for effecting cultural change, unity, global peace, and the universal love of humanity by all right thinking peoples.