My name is O’Connell. O’Connell is a name of Irish origin and according to Wikipedia, it is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic “O Conaill”, which means “decendant of Conall”, whoever the hell he was. I personally, am descended from a gentleman named O’Connell, but my parents were divorced around the time I was born. I have actually never met any of the O’Connells. I grew up with the Weissbergs. Still, it seems that my cells contain 23 Irish chromosomes.
I recently did a bit of research regarding “The Curse of the Irish”. It seems that the Irish actually have been cursed in a number of ways. I have listed some of these curses with some historical perspective below:
The English – The Irish have been enemies at some level with the English since there were well…Irish and English.
Bad Teeth – The Irish are noted for their soft, chalky, teeth. When it comes to teeth, many of the Irish envy meth addicts.
Alcoholism – This should come as no surprise. See James Joyce, Peter O’Toole, etc.
Penis Size – Apparently, at least one study has determined that Irishmen have, on average, smaller penises than the average throughout the world. As a side note, it is rumored that Jews may be blessed with slightly larger than average penises. Porn stars Harry Reems and Ron Jeremy are part of the tribe. Considering that we are starting at a disadvantage due to circumcision, I am happy to take after my maternal side.
Inability to Maintain an Erection – This is probably heavily influenced by the previous two curses.
While all of these curses may have some historical accuracy, since the early 1960’s, the Irish have been cursed with a new scourge, maybe the worst of all.
The apostrophe. Yes, the Irish put the punk in punctuation.
Around 1962, the database was invented, and over the next few years, large companies such as General Motors and United Airlines, began implementing this tool in order to manage data. Eventually nearly all companies, large and small, began using the database. Unfortunately for the Irish, this also included the problem of many of these databases having difficulty processing names containing the dreaded apostrophe.
As an O’Connell, I have experienced hours and hours of torment explaining to low-level clerks that I do indeed have an account with their insurance company or video store.
Clerk: You’re not in the system.
Me: Dude, I just handed you my Blockbuster card. Try it with an apostrophe.
Clerk: We don’t use those.
Me: So just check anyway. (By now, the people behind me are looking at me as though I were trying to by a case of Colt 45 with a WIC card).
Clerk: Can’t find it.
Me: I was just here yesterday. You rented me the movie. Try Oconnell.
Me: Try O Connell.
Me: How about Roberto Connell?
Clerk: Yeah, here it is.
You see, the apostrophe is used as a delimiter or marker in a lot of computer code. As such, many database systems, particularly early ones, do not allow its use even in a name field. This puts the Irish at a significant disadvantage. In about a third of the systems out there, I’m correctly identified as O’Connell. In another third, I’m OConnell, and in the last third, I’m O Connell or some other twisted interpretation.
When my daughter was married a couple of years ago, she and her husband decided to come up with a new name combining each of their names. The only condition she had was to insist that no apostrophes would be used. My other daughter is getting married soon and will be taking her husband’s non-apostrophe name. My son is on his own.
I personally, have no issue with the English other than each season of Sherlock being only three episodes long. I also have pretty good teeth and I do not drink spirits of any kind. I also have been fortunate to have no complaints about my genitalia to date. I have however, lived the entirety of my adult life during the era of database storage. As the software has become more sophisticated, I will admit to fewer problems with my accursed apostrophe.
Maybe it’s time for a new curse of the Irish. Global warming will mean an even greater risk of sunburn on our pasty skin. I also hear that Liam Neeson is in talks to make Taken 4. Donald Trump still has a golf course in Ireland, so he could show up at any time. The future looks bleak, but I’d take any of these curses if I could just get rid of that damned apostrophe.