21 February 2009

The Intrepid Prawo Jazdy

I have very little patience with people who tell Irish jokes. Or Polish jokes, I suppose. I dunno, I reckon it's just that I grew out of Kerry jokes when I was, oh, ten or so. Maybe eleven. At a push. It may be why the Abderite jokes in To Philogelos rarely do it for me. Try substituting 'stupid person' in for the ethnic identity in the joke. If it's still funny, the joke works. If it doesn't work, but you'd laugh at it with the ethnic element intact, then you're a racist and a cretin. Sorry, but true.

Dara O'Briain has a fine routine in his Live at the Theatre Royal show were he talks about how Irish jokes aren't really done in Britain nowadays, except among a couple of moronic exceptions:
... but then, I'm Irish, and of all the people who've benefited from a good dose of political correctness on this island, it's been the Irish. 'Member the good old days with the jokes about how stupid we were? And then a memo went around some time in the eighties, where you all went 'Oh Jesus, we're not doing jokes about the Irish anymore,' and you went 'Oh, okay, fine,' and you just stopped, and thank you very much. A bit overdue, but thanks very much nonetheless.

'Cause we didn't really enjoy that kind of stuff, and it's good that we don't get that kind of reputation. Just so you know, there are still plenty of stupid people dotted around Ireland, but you're not allowed talk about them.

There was a fire engine called out last year, because there was a cat stuck up a tree in Limerick. The lads drove out, took the cat down, gave it back to the old woman. She said 'lads, will yeh have a glass of whiskey?' This is a completely true story. The lads said 'We will of course have a glass of whiskey. The other crew are on at the moment, it's fine.' So they had the glass of whiskey, they had another glass of whiskey, the whole town came out, had a bit of craic with the fire engine, life was good. Eventually they said 'Listen, we'd better go back now'. They waved goodbye to the village, they waved goodbye to the old woman, they got back into the fire engine, drove off, ran over the fuckin' cat.

Completely true story, and you're not allowed tell it.
And of course, the news this last week has given us a tale to rival it. Yes, it's the story of Prawo Jazdy, which the Irish Times reported as follows:
HE WAS one of Ireland’s most reckless drivers, a serial offender who crossed the country wantonly piling up dozens of speeding fines and parking tickets while somehow managing to elude the law.

So effective was his modus operandi of giving a different address each time he was caught that by June 2007 there were more than 50 separate entries under his name, Prawo Jazdy, in the Garda Pulse system. And still not a single conviction.

In the end, the vital clue to his identity lay not with Interpol or the fingerprint database but in the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. Prawo jazdy means driving licence.

In a letter dated June 17th, 2007, an officer from the Garda traffic division wrote that it had come to his attention that members inspecting Polish driving licences were noting Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder’s name.

“Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence,” he wrote.

“Having noticed this I decided to check on Pulse and see how many members have made this mistake. It is quiet [sic] embarrassing to see that the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities.
It's worth reading the whole tale, as it's quite amusing. Sadly, though, some BBC buffoon who didn't get the memo felt a need to glitz up the story a bit:
Details of how police in the Irish Republic finally caught up with the country's most reckless driver have emerged, the Irish Times reports.

He had been wanted from counties Cork to Cavan after racking up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines.

However, each time the serial offender was stopped he managed to evade justice by giving a different address.

But then his cover was blown.
There are some subtle distortions here that change the tone off the story to turn it into an Oirish joke. For the BBC it's a case of the Guards being eejits who were actively conducting a futile manhunt across the land, and being bamboozled by a wily Polish scam, whereas in fact the issue was fiftly unrelated errors and no attempt to join the dots. You can blame laziness for this, or sloppiness, but not institutional idiocy. It's a subtle point, I know, but an important one.

Sorry, this makes me sound a tad touchy, doesn't it? I'm not really, it's just, well, this is a completely true story, and you're not allowed to tell it. Well, you can, but tell it like it is. It's funny enough with racist implications.

And where's this 'Irish Republic' being spoken of anyway? Cork? It's very simple: under the Constitution the name of the country is 'Ireland,' and under the Republic of Ireland Act the description of the state is the 'Republic of Ireland'.

I'm fairly sure the BBC have a style guide that explains this. Calling it the 'Irish Republic 'is like calling the UK 'the British and Irish Monarchy'.

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