In a Word...devastated

Everywhere you look these days people are ‘devastated’. About everything.

 

Hello. I’m Patsy. And you? “….Devastated. David Devastated.” Very common name. It seems everyone is Devastated these days. Is it Irish?

“As far as we know it originated in Scotland and we came to Ireland in the Middle Ages to fight in some Irish tribal wars. We stayed.”

…leaving devastation in your wake. Plenty of wakes!

“Very funny. Some say we’re descended from ancient kings of Ireland, you know, like Devally. It is an Anglicisation of the Irish Ó Duibhghiolla, meaning “black” and “lad”. Though I prefer the theory that we were actually French originally. As in De Vastated, probably after some place in France. ”

Clever. Convenient too. You mean ye invaded Wexford with Strongbow and those other Norman French in 1169?

“Invasion was never our thing. Believe me”

So which part of the country are you from? Are you the keen-eyed Kerryman I met below Kenmare or the David Devastated who used to say he’d like to blow them papishes from Derry walls away? Or are you the one who in my college days for strollin’ on the Kingstown pier had such a curious craze?

Then maybe you’re the David Devastated I met so long ago, in the bog below Belmullet, in the county of Mayo? If you’re that David Devastated your fortune may be small. But I’m thinking – thinking – David, that I love you best of all. West being best!...

Folks, you get the point. Everywhere you look these days people are “devastated”. About everything. Rarely in the history of human endeavour has one word worked so hard; and in such diverse contexts its meaning is frequently gleaned now only from that context. This can range from the utterly trivial to the appallingly tragic.

Who, for instance, is not moved on first hearing Richard Harris render “MacArthur Park” in dramatic tones of deepest sorrow until you realise he’s singing: “MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark/All the sweet, green icing flowing down/Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don’t think that I can take it/’Cause it took so long to bake it/And I’ll never have that recipe again/Oh no!”

Such utter devastation! Over a wet cake? I’m considering setting up a new group, the Irish Society for Stopping Abuse of Devastated (IS SAD).

Interested?

Devastated, from Latin devastare, to lay waste, ravage, make desolate.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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