Tag Archives: Ireland

Irish Joke 1 – Light as a Feather

1) “Which Irish rock is lighter than a feather?”

“A Shamrock!” 

2) Although I’m half Korean, I’m also half Irish. I heard this riddle from my Irish grandmother. She told me this riddle as the first in a series of riddles saying that she wanted to start off giving me the “easiest one” she could think of. She said she wanted to tell me this specific riddle because it was an opportunity for her, a devout Christian, to teach me something about the importance of the “shamrock,” which to her was not merely a shrub, but could be used as a visual symbol to represent the Holy Trinity. 

3) Since I couldn’t visit my grandmother personally, I had zoom called her and asked for her four favorite riddles. 

4) Allegedly, the Shamrock was first used as a representation of the Holy Trinity according to lore about St. Patrick. The comparison “light as a feather” has ties to symbolic associations with freshness, holiness, renewal – shamrock’s etymology means “young clover,” so the connection with lightness, youth, and vitality become even more apparent. 

Irish Joke 2 – Eyes

1)  

“What has eyes, but it can’t see?” 

“A potato!” 

2) My Irish grandmother shared this with me with hopes to express how much of a staple potatoes are in Irish cuisine. She said that even though this riddle may seem overly simplistic, the potato has sustained the Irish population for generations. She even mentioned to me that in 1845 the Irish Potato Famine literally wiped out over 1 million people because of a blight. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) I’ve heard other similar riddles such as “a needle” to answer the above riddle, but it’s my first time hearing this rendition. The fact that an oral tradition even exists in which a potato is personified through the riddle, suggests that the crop was a major form of sustenance for the Irish people. At the time of the famine, around 50% of Ireland’s population was dependent on potatoes for their major source of food. 

Irish Joke 3 – clover

1) “How don’t you iron a four-leaf clover?” 

“Because you shouldn’t press your luck!” 

2) My Irish grandmother saved this riddle for the end of our conversation because she said that she herself collected 4 leaf clovers during childhood and that she still believes them to be truly lucky. Although she admits to herself being slightly superstitious, she suggests that I undertake some superstitious beliefs to protect myself. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) The riddle suggests that “luck” is a real and precious force that influences our lives. The four leaf clover has connections to a rich oral tradition. It has been associated with protection from evil Celtic fairies, and other legends state that Eve removed a four-leaf clover before leaving the Garden of Eden. Thus, for Irish people, four-leaf clover folklore is derived from a sense of sacredness, regarding luck – a symbol of good within a dangerous world. 

Irish Joke 4 – Ghost

1) 

“On St. Patrick’s Day, what does a ghost drink?”

“Boos!” 

2) My Irish grandmother first heard this riddle during college in 1967 when drinking at a pub the night of St. Patrick’s Day. She shared this with me because she said the camaraderie she felt that day was unlike anything she’d ever experienced and that she wanted to share this memory with me. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) Based on the riddle, one can clearly see that there is a celebratory nature tied to alcohol consumption in Ireland. There are practices such as “wetting the baby’s head,” which embodies a joyful drinking celebration when a baby is born to spontaneous meetups at a local pub. Although Ireland has a complex relationship with alcohol – indicated by rates of alcohol abuse, it is undeniable that alcohol has an almost communal, even spiritual effect that enhances kinship to great lengths. This riddle’s association of alcohol with ghosts shows that alcohol is almost tied to a deeper cultural and superstitious framework. 

Irish Proverb

Text

“A friend’s eye is the best mirror”

Context

My informant heard of this particular Irish proverb from an Irish teacher at his elementary school, and went home to his parents that day to inquire about its meaning. My informant interprets this proverb as meaning that only somebody that knows you well can tell you the objective truth about yourself. My informant said he took this proverb to heart and thinks about it often, but doesn’t necessarily use it much in everyday life.

My Analysis

Obviously we all have self-bias, which can cloud our own self-perception and so it’s necessary that we have a close friend or somebody who knows us well that’ll tell us the truth when we need to it. I’d never heard my informant utter this particular proverb before, so it was fascinating to be able to hear from him about the proverb itself as well his interpretation of its meaning. I realize that this particular post may be rather pithy, but this cultural piece of folklore is rather succinct in its meaning.