Nov 6, 2009

Irish Baby Carriage

My grandfather has an ancient wheelbarrow in his yard, a device that has to be at least two decades older than me. I took a picture of the rusty cast iron wheelbarrow this afternoon, and I hollowly chuckled when he referred to the garden implement as an "Irish baby carriage."

Yet my grandfather seemed puzzled at my amusement, and to his ears the term "Irish baby carriage" was simply an out-of-date expression. I found the phrase of course to be a demeaning commentary on the historic poverty of the Irish, for whom a wheelbarrow would have been an important possession in the harvesting of potatoes. Thus, an "Irish baby carriage" would imply that poor Irish peasant women dragged along their infants in the potato fields as they tended their meager crops, or as they traveled to their Philadephia jobs.

At least, that is how I interpreted the origin of term "Irish baby carriage."


Middle Aged Woman said...

I think the origin was that the Irish didn't know any better. When we were kids, all the rage was Pollack jokes. Even my Polish friends laughed! Now my battle is getting people to stop saying 'gay' when they mean 'stupid.' 6th graders and my own children are notorious for these. It's so gay.

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Mike,
I really enjoyed this posting. The photo of the old wheelbarrow in the fall leafs was very heart warming.

Of course my mind instantly jumped to another out-of-date expression term, "Paddy Wagon." You are correct, your grandfather was just using a term that he heard as a child and grew up with. In his mind it was what it was and nothing more.

I remember well my father and his brothers using terms that they grew up with in the 1920’s coal fields around Fairmont, WV. I should add that they were not speaking in a negative way about someone, but of their friends, schoolmates, girls they dated, etc. It was just the terms everyone grew up with and that are what it was called. None would be accepted today in polite society. If I may give an example such as “Hunkys” for the area across the Monongahela River where they lived that was settled largely by those from the Slavic regions such as Russians or Hungarians, etc.

My father’s nick name, and the one my grandfather, uncles, cousins called him their whole life, was Dago. We are from the Revolutionary War immigration of Scott / Irish decent but even Dad’s best childhood friend who was of Italian decent called Dad by the same name. I was 13 years old before I learned that it was slang for someone of Italian decent.

I hope that I have not offended anyone and if I have, please accept my sincere apology. They were different times and we have grown so much since the 1920’s.

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Middle Aged Woman,
You are correct. My first wife’s grandparents were right off the boat from Poland. My daughter’s grandmother was 1st generation Polish / American and grew up in Little Poland area of Baltimore. Bottom line here, the Polish side of the family knew and told the best, rudest, funniest, Pollack jokes. My daughter proudly proclaims her Polish decency side. We all are so American Melting Pot that all will have a little bit from all nationalities. That is what the rest of the world calls, “American.”

dr-exmedic said...

My personal favorite: Irish confetti=bricks

Rude and no longer true, but hysterical.