One of my favourite poems is an old reliable from Henry Reed, Naming of Parts.
The title comes from a stage of military training, as he explains early on:
Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
Today we have naming of parts.
It goes on in that vein, but you’d have to read it for yourself, and I strongly recommend that you do.
The reason it’s here? Apart from its universal relevance, names have been backing into the spotlight for the last couple of weeks now.
For instance, there was a lot of mirth about the sending-off of Didier Cordonnier in a Leinster IFC club game recently, because there were suggestions that the referee felt Cordonnier was pulling his leg when giving his name.
This immediately provoked similar stories, such as the James Bond who posted messages in sympathy, though my contemporary in the old North Monastery, James Dean, was silent on his travails in nineteen-eighties GAA games. (On that basis I bow the knee, however, to the lady of my acquaintance who shared a secondary-school classroom in the same decade with both a Linda Evans and a Joan Collins.)
I’m a little surprised at the naivete of young Didier, mind you.
Surely he was advised at some point, as all of us were, to give his name as Gaeilge to any referee - not to put the official’s knowledge of the nation’s first language to the test, but to exploit any potential for confusion if the booking led eventually to a suspension (“Why, yes, this is the Seán Ó Murchú in question. What do you mean he looks nothing like the axe-murderer you sent off in the U13 game?”).
People tend not to have a sense of humour about their names, which means when you make a mistake it’s a mercy when it’s taken in the right spirit. Yours truly misspelt an interviewee’s name recently and was grateful that the man in question was so graceful about it. In my years in America my own name was massacred so many times that a few of the people I worked with referred to me as M, which I took in good spirit until someone reminded me that M is the name of the child-murder movie which made a star of Peter Lorre, and I didn’t take it in quite as good a spirit after that.
On a lighter note, you don’t realise how you take names on trust until you make an error. Some years ago a newspaper in this fair land had to scramble in order to complete the names on a team photograph, given the number of hard-to-identify panellists lining up with the first fifteen.
Brainwave: one reporter knew a player, so he mailed the picture to the player asking for help. Absolutely, responded the player, from left to right the names are as follows, etc etc. All was fine until the picture was published, and the people in the area saw a . . . disconnect between the names and the faces. In fact, it was on a par with the old Tom O’Connor routine about the raid on a Liverpool social club, when the policeman in charge reads out the signatures in the visitors’ book (“Step forward - M. Mouse, D. Duck . . .” )
Nothing, however, beats the possibly apocryphal story about a headline that once appeared in the golf section of this paper, many years ago, about a surprise defeat for a favourite in some now-forgotten tournament.
Perhaps it’s because the Examiner had ‘Cork’ in its title that ‘Langer Out In Day Of Shocks’ had such resonance.
The old Mad magazine had a feature once about the modern urban Olympics: one of the headline events was the First To Beep When The Traffic Light Goes Green.
The winner with a time of 0.001 seconds was a meek, bespectacled type (see pic byline for reasonable facsimile), who was unfortunately murdered 0.002 seconds later by the driver immediately in front of him.
I mention it because it was probably the analogue version of that modern day phenomenon, the Rush To Offence On Social Media. Last week the announcement of the All-Star awards for the 2018 season provoked a reaction with 0.0001 seconds of being released.
What baffles me is how slow people are to recognise the obvious. We’re all aware of the necessity to signpost your false outrage - fauxtrage, if you will - but can’t you see that you’re falling into the trap with depressing ease? That you’re just another cog helping the gears to revolve?
Can’t you see that your grumbling isn’t beside the point, but that your grumbling is
The Cork Film Festival is on this week, and thanks to the reader for pointing out this particular gem.
No, not Blackwater Holiday, made in 1964, about canoeing holidays on that river — made, strangely enough, by the man who went on to direct The Italian Job.
I refer to a showing this week of the short film Three Kisses — made in 1955, it was nominated for an Oscar and features the tribulations of a young hurler in Cork. In an art-imitates-life legendary Cork trainer Jim ‘Tough’ Barry appears, though I’m not sure if he’s acting as himself or not.
According to the Irish Film Institute only one print of the film exists — it’s owned by a Los Angeles-based collector — and its Oscar nomination came as news to those involved. They only learned it was nominated at the film’s premiere, three months after the Academy Awards ceremony itself.
Anyway, ask yourself this question. What are you going to get more out of this week if you hit the cinema — Three Kisses (which I believe happen offscreen, for your information), or A Star Is Born, where you’ll just end up humming ‘Shallow’ to yourself for days on end?
Actually, keep the answers to that one to yourself.
I make no apologies for the signposting about to occur now in this corner of the newspaper.
Having flown the flag for writers of all shapes and sizes everywhere I direct your attention to Crisis and Comeback: Cork In The Eighties, written by myself, which is now in the shops.
A couple of years ago here I sang the praises of David Maraniss and Once In A Great City, and I felt an examination of Cork’s recent past would repay the effort. I think it has, anyway. There are copies in good bookstores everywhere, and lousy bookstores in other places (another line I robbed from Mad magazine, see elsewhere on the page). If you disagree with anything in the book don’t be shy about coming up to discuss your point if you see me around. Just don’t rush up suddenly from behind and frighten me.
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