Thursday, December 22, 2011

No EFFIN way?!

My pal The Choirboy, an avid consumer of Oirish news, kindly sent me this link to an Irish Times article a week or so ago. We learn that Marie Kennedy is aggrieved with Facebook for refusing to let her list her tiny hometown of Effin, Co. Limerick as her location, on the grounds that it might be found offensive. 

It appears that a number of other uses of 'Effin' - clearly intended as an oblique profanity - have been allowed elsewhere on Facebook. I have discovered, for example, that there's a recently launched guitar dealership in Butler, Missouri called Effin Guitars. So, it's not clear exactly what Zuckerberg's drones are taking issue with. Perhaps they simply don't believe the place exists.

As we can see from the Google Earth view above, it only just barely exists. Effin, in fact, seems to be a solitary large farmhouse. Its satellite community of Lower Effin, a couple of hundred yards down the road, appears to be a rather more developed hamlet with possibly two or three distinct addresses.

I remember a holiday in Ireland about 20 or so years ago when I came upon one such community during a Sunday afternoon stroll with my girlfriend. It was rather more substantial than Effin appears to be. For a start, it straddled a T-junction, where one minor road met a slightly less minor road. In fact, the less minor road led all the way to Dublin, and there were occasional buses; so, for rural Ireland, this was quite a bustling transport hub. Well, back then - Christmas 1990, as it happens - this community consisted of a small petrol station (which appeared to be in mothballs), a church (Church of Ireland rather than Catholic, long since closed), a village shop (closed when we passed through), two or three or houses.... and two pubs. A very generous provision for a local population that might well have been in single figures, and probably not more than a few dozen if you included all the farms for quite some distance round about. But it always seems to be so in Ireland: every village, no matter how unsubstantial, must have at least one pub, usually two or three. On this occasion, by some strange cosmic coincidence, the pub to the left of the junction bore my family name and the one to the right bore my girlfriend's. "You go to yours and I'll go to mine," I quipped. She was not amused. We went to 'hers'. I've always wanted to go back and try the other one some day.


JES said...

Just tried to find Ms. Kennedy on Facebook -- to see if they'd let her fix this -- but not sure if I ever did. There's more than one person with her name, even if you restrict the search to Ireland, and you can't see a lot of details about a person unless you "befriend" him or her. So, I'm left to wonder. Maybe the Irish Times will update that article if there's a change.

I had read about the case probably about the time The Choirboy did. I'd always thought the pseudo-contraction "effin'" to be a Britishism, which had made its way to the US from over there. And the terms in which Ms. Kennedy's quotations ("I'm an Effin girl" vs., say, "I grew up in Effin") used the town name seemed deliberately ambiguously provocative. (I wanted to congratulate her for the seeming dare.) All of which led me to think of Facebook's response to her "hometown" name as, well, predictable. Cockeyed and bureaucratic, true, but predictable.

JES said...

A wag named Sean Kelly (?) has posted a YouTube video for a song he composed in tribute to Ms. Kennedy's plight: "The Effin Song."

And here's a little more detail, courtesy of the Washington Post. Not that much more recent, however.

Froog said...

The Irish are particularly fond these days of using 'feck' as a would-be less offensive variant - something that was, I believe, popularised by the surreal '90s sitcom Father Ted (set in Ireland, but made for the UK's Channel 4). We Brits have picked up on it to some extent as well. Has that made it into American usage? I suspect not, if the TV show is little known there.

I am dubious about the WP's suggestion that Effin is a town of 1,000 people. First, that Google Earth view indicates that it is just three or four houses scattered along a country lane; you'd have to amalgamate all the similar hamlets for a few miles around to create a community of 1,000 people (though perhaps they do, for the purposes of trying to get up a hurling team; and maybe they take the Effin name because it's the most significant, or most memorable, hamlet in the cluster). Second, it's just an odd size for a community in such a sparsely populated country as Ireland. In my experience there, I don't think I've ever seen a village of that size. There are lots of hamlets like Effin, of just a few dozen people; there are a few villages of maybe 100 or 200; and then there are just a handful of significant market towns, usually the county town, of 10,000 or 20,000; and then the provincial capital will be a city of perhaps 40,000-80,000.

The ghost town at the crossroads in my story (there wasn't even anyone serving in the bar - Butler's - when we went in; we had to put a fresh turf of peat on the fire for ourselves, and cough loudly for about five minutes until the landlady came down from upstairs) had the delightful name of The Rower.

Not too far away, we'd also visited a large-ish (by comparison!) village called Inistioge. That had a short row of terraced housing - maybe 10 or 12 homes in each - along three sides of the grass square (the village green) in the centre of the community. In the middle of each of these three rows of houses there was a pub. That's three pubs for a population of maybe 100 people. I love Ireland.

JES said...

Can you access Google Maps/Street View from inside the Great Firewall? Street View, you may be pleased to learn, allows one to stroll around the square in Inistioge. I was charmed but not surprised to find not just several pubs but, of course, a church along one side of the square. This seems to fall under the category, I think, of hedging one's bets.

About the "population 1,000" issue: one of the articles I read about Effin referred to it not as a town (or other conventional form of municipality: village, hamlet, etc.), but as a "parish." In the US, especially in Louisiana, this typically refers to a larger geographic region -- like a county -- which might account for the seemingly grandiose claim of a thousand inhabitants.

(I was watching a cop show last night in which a pair of detectives discussed how to write up their official report of a crime scene. The chief feature of which was: a lot of rats, swarming the walls and floors. "I'm gonna say a million rats," said one guy. "No," said his partner, "Say a thousand. Nobody'll believe a million." Detective #1: "Nobody'll believe a thousand, either.")

Froog said...

It would seem Inistioge has increased its number of pubs since I was there. It was a very quiet backwater when I visited, but it seems its now being promoted as a picturesque tourist spot - so there's more prospect of casual custom.

Not that business realities ever have that much of a bearing on things in rural Ireland, I don't think. People just seem to like setting up a pub, even if the only clientele are going to be a handful of family members.

Great exchange between the detectives, that. What was the show?

Ann Marie Kennedy said...

Hi this is ann marie kennedy here. Effin is a real place. And a recognized parish for legal, religious, political reasons. It has two churches, 3 pubs, two shops, one creamery making effin cheese, one furniture store. A community hall, a school, various social, sporting and political organisations, using Effin as their name, I e effin badminton club etc., Ireland is made up of many such places. Effin is a rural parish made up of many town lands, one happens to be called Effin. Google earth or maps are not recognized by local councils. One has to submit ordinance survey maps for planning etc purposes. Facebooks excuse that place us too small is not acceptable. Much smaller rural areas and parishes can be and s are recognized by Facebook. Yes I am on Facebook but I keep my details private. If I want more info on effin look up the effin, co. Limerick group page. Thank you. Ann marie kennedy , still a proud effin woman.

Froog said...

Welcome, Ms Kennedy. And good luck with your campaign!