‘The civil tongue that masks the uncivil mind.’
Eamon met a minister. The calvinist cleric called him “Seamus.” My friend corrected him. The preacher cooly followed, “Same thing.”
“What’s your name?”
“Robert,” responded the minister.
“Ok great, William.” My friend said.
A portrait of sectarianism classless, creedless, rankless, of its rot and reach. I feigned disgust; because I did the same thing. Did and still do. And I’m ashamed. But maybe I’m not alone in it.
I have a cousin who has had a child, the proverbal Northern Ireland kind, and I can never remember her name. I say Nuala or Fionuala or Una or Orna. Her name is Niamh.
My Catholic neighbours were called Eimear and Orla. I don’t know how or why, but I always knew these were different appellations, in origin and nominatively. Even though I was nursery age. Growing up my mum would sometimes jest about ‘Fionuala’ or ‘Siobhan.’ The latter because you could go phonetical and mispronounce as ‘Sio-ban.’
We carry our sectarianism like a pocket-watch, said Nick Laird. We carry our names like fire alarms that trip on contact with ‘The Other Side.’ Our names are like an indicator and surreptitious informant, blowing our cover. Spencer, my planter moniker. But we cover, even sanitise and civilise this incivility in ‘decorum.’
Our expertly civil tongue masks our egregiously uncivil minds.