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Author Topic: Irish lace
tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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No, not the beautiful crochet and similar of the 19th century, but the cobwebby thingies that hang from your ceiling, if you're not careful to keep them under control.

When I was young everyone I knew referred to cobwebs as Irish lace. I put together a theory, in my teens, that Irish peasants living in thatched roof huts, suffered a sort of culture shock when coming to the US. If they never cleaned the ceilings and walls of these huts, why would they clean any other type ceiling or wall? Hence, the theory that formed in my mind is that Irish peasants in America were letting cobwebs build up on their ceilings and walls, and this was the beginning of a term derogatory of the Irish or an observation as regarded their cleaning skills or lack thereof.

Are you still with me? Lately I've been thinking about Irish Lace again and it occurs to me that the most of any group that refer to cobwebs as Irish lace, seem to me, to be of somewhat Irish descent. Now, I'm wondering if it isn't a term not pointed at the Irish from outside, but the Irish pointing at themselves, making fun of themselves in some manner. It's my experience that the Irish do enjoy making fun of themselves. Also, it could be a reference, in a manner, to Irish lace, the 19th century cottage industry, but in a roundabout fashion.

My mother of Irish descent and her many many sisters, are where I first heard the term, but it was common among people in my region of Michigan also, while I was growing up.

I'm having a hard time finding any information on Irish lace cobwebs. I see references to them, even definitions. But, where'd the term come from? How did it begin? What is the story behind it?

ETA: And isn't that just a great and/or appropriate user status for me? I love it!

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Aud
We Three Blings


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That's interesting. I never heard that term before and I'm of Irish descent. I looked up "irish lace" in the OED and the only references were to "a type of lace that resembles crochet". Not mention of spider webs. There were other derogatory Irish combination such as "Irish Pennants" - a sailor slang term for rope ends left flapping in the breeze.
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Nicki
Deck the Malls


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I'm also Irish but I haven't heard of Irish Lace. That's a new one on me. But occasionally I'm accused of having lived under a rock so you can't really go by me.

Hey since you are up on your lingo I've got a question for ya.....Where did Irish penant come from? It's used in the military all the time.

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Nicki
Deck the Malls


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Oh, thank Aud.

We always used the term for small strings on clothing. Like at the end of the stitching there would be a little piece handing. That's what we called Irish Penants.

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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So far the Irish are lousy housekeepers and messy sailors. *sigh*

Maybe instead of a new one, Nicki, it's an old one. [Smile]

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Mistletoey Chloe
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Haven't heard it either, but it could be that Irish lace is itself so gossamer-like and beautiful that it looks like cobwebs. If you have cobwebs, then, you have, euphemistically, "Irish lace," which needn't be a slur on Irish housekeeping, but a compliment for Irish lace-makers. If no such term as "Irish lace" existed, I think the slur view would be much more likely.

Lots of pretty real Irish lace here: http://www.irishlacemuseum.com/Homepg.html

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Yes, Chloe, that was my thinking refenced in my third para, OP.

There really is some beautiful Irish lace out there, isn't there? I had a magazine several years back that had the same photo quality pages as National Geographic with many representations.

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Mistletoey Chloe
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Ok. but I don't see that it is necessarily "making fun" so much as just being poetic.

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Aud
We Three Blings


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Irish textile terms tend to be pretty positive. For instance Irish linen is wonderful stuff and they do know their wool. The lace references in the OED seemed to be positive as well. It's curious that the term irish pennents would fold back around and mean a hanging thread on a garment.

Oh, and how good am I to answer a question 3 mintues before it's even asked.

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Mistletoey Chloe:
Ok. but I don't see that it is necessarily "making fun" so much as just being poetic.

Yes, quite right. If that's the origin, then it's only drawing a poetic comparison and not the least derogatory. But, that's why I'm trying to get to the bottom of the origin of the term. I just want to know what's it all about, alfie?

ETA: I should have mentioned that some Irish women women of Irish descent are offended by usage of the term. I think that's where I got the hint that it's derogatory in origin, originally. Though, that may not be the case at all.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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I wonder if it has any connection to the practice/theory/whatever of using clean cobwebs to help clot blood (which seems to be a less derogatory use than the others)

Not that I have any authority for this, or even for the practice of using cobwebs on wounds except historical fiction books I read as a child.

Seaboe

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Forgotten Fay
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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I could see a woman of Irish decent getting upset at the term. If it is the term for cobwebs on the ceiling and such, your implying she has a dirty house. I think...

Fortten "Very Irish Thank You" Fay

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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That's not quite what I meant by being offended by the usage of the term, Fay.

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Ever heard of "Irish Altzheimers"? You forget everything except the grudges.

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Kindly Wise
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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My son was pointing out to me that it seems to be perfectly all right to sing songs on children's television such as
"Oh, me name is Finnegan Spinnigan Winnigan Grinnegan McGee"

but NO one would ever think it was OK to similarly mock the complex names of, say, Sri Lankan people. (Although there WAS a cultural "open season" on Chinese names during the early 20th Century, this is now generally acknowledged to have been a Bad Thing)

At least the hotels in Ontario no longer sport signs that say "No dogs or Irish".
********************
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Mosherette
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by tagurit:
That's not quite what I meant by being offended by the usage of the term, Fay.

Then what did you mean?

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Silence should never under any circumstances be construed as agreement. A lot of the time, it's simply a reflection that someone just said something so stupid that no response could possibly do it justice. - Ramblin' Dave

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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I AM Irish, and have never heard the term Irish lace.

Tagurit, you're right, a lot of our humour is based on making fun of ourselves. Very self-deprecating jokes. Another aspect is making fun of our friends. Americans sometimes find this difficult to understand. Generally, if an Irish person makes fun of you, it's because they like you enough to think you can take the joke.

Elkhound - YOMANK!

Ever heard of "Irish Altzheimers"? You forget everything except the grudges.

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Mosherette:
quote:
Originally posted by tagurit:
That's not quite what I meant by being offended by the usage of the term, Fay.

Then what did you mean?
Ok, if it needs clarification, those that are offended are offended with the idea of cobwebs (unclean home) being equated with Irish anything. It's the usage they're offended by, not because someone is saying their home is not clean. They would be just as offended if someone called your cobwebs Irish Lace, Mosh.

*winks at Remigo*

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Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
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AAMAH

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