Wednesday 21 February 2018

Radio: Ray's vagina monologues

Ray D'Arcy
Ray D'Arcy

Eilis O'Hanlon

The official name for it is denominalisation. It's what happens when nouns are changed into verbs. Trending. Friending. Workshopping. Uurgh. It's been around for centuries, of course, but modern media is particularly prone to such zeitgeisty jargon. There was a textbook example on Wednesday's Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM, as three women came into the studio to discuss their experience of labour, with one beginning her story with the words: "I birthed my now 14 and a half year old, Nathan, up in Sally Gap."

That'd be the same as giving birth, right? So why not just say so? It can't be for brevity, because it was then expanded by Ray into the even more ungainly phrase "the birthing process". Sounds positively bureaucratic. I can't help thinking there's something going on here, some didactic intent in replacing the old word with the new which I'm just not picking up on. Either way, I wish they'd stop. Why deliberately make language clumsy and ugly?

Crossing the Line is a new half-hour show, airing on Saturday evenings on RTE Radio One, devoted to European poetry in translation. It's never going to draw a huge audience, but it was thoroughly engaging and epitomised the best aspects of RTE's public service commitment – though the first poem we heard, ironically enough, was read out in the original Dutch. There's a couple of minutes of my life I'm never getting back ...

It quickly focused on the main problem. Nobody speaks Dutch except for the Dutch – and there aren't many of them. According to Irish poet and translator Michael O'Loughlin, the government in Amsterdam is trying to promote Dutch poetry abroad, but "with very little success", adding: "Part of the reason is that people have very little context for Dutch poetry" ... or possibly that governments are uniquely unsuited to promoting poetry and should stick to what they're good at. Whatever the heck that is.

Last week's Documentary on One on RTE was certainly well-timed. In a week when penalty points were back in the news, as the Public Accounts Committee – the new superheroes of Irish politics – was locked in a battle of wills with the Garda Commissioner over whether two whistleblowers should be free to give evidence, The Garda Who Limped was a chance to hear the story straight from the horse's mouth.

The programme began by posing a question about Garda John Wilson: "Is he a serial whinger ... or is he in fact protecting an important value of our police force?" That sounded like a leading question to me, because the motivations can be much more complex than that crude dichotomy; but it was well worth hearing to bring some human context to the political row. It did go on a bit, though. I didn't need to hear his whole life story.

Back to the Ray D'Arcy Show anyway, where the woman who talked about how she "birthed" her child, then went on to explain how she found the whole experience "orgasmic". Literally. The only thing which took a slight edge off the pleasure was that her mother was there at the time. Well, it would, wouldn't it? Ray was loving it, as he got to chat to the ladies about how "your vagina is used for other things" than childbirth (well spotted, sir). It's certainly a long way from The Den. I couldn't help thinking about how much Irish radio has changed in recent decades. Whether that counts as progress, of course, is another matter altogether.

Irish Independent

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