In defense of the word “craic”
Reading an earlier thread* there was a mention of the contentious nature of the word "craic." I must admit that when I first heard it used by fellow musicians in the States, I didn’t believe Irish people actually said it. This is probably because all the Irish people I grew up with in my family had left Ireland in the 1950’s. I later found, as Jack Guilder has as well, many Irish people using the word in Ireland, especially in the connotation of describing that something special of a night of good tunes and friendship.
My defense, I suppose, is not of the word, but rather the spelling. Some content that "craic" is pseudo-Irish and therefore the term should be relegated to being spelt crack and left as is. Besides the fact that I do agree it is an imposter insofar as it is definitely an English rather than goidelic word. However, there are two reasons that I think that the word merits its own spelling. 1.) it has attributed a unique meaning, above and beyond the connotation "crack" has in the British isles of fun and excitement, 2.) "craic" is much less likely to be confused for crack cocaine.
So, it was not completely accurate to say that I had never heard of the term before adulthood. There is a story in my family of one of our Irish relations visiting in Chicago. They had rented a car and decided to drive to Ohio to visit some of my grandmother’s relations. Naturally, enjoying the 6 hour drive through the Midwestern plains requires driving at excessive speeds. Naturally, the cops in Indian are WELL AWARE of this and have funded their state police for generations by pulling over people from Chicago who are speeding on their way westward.
The officer asked my relations where they were headed, and of course, they truthfully said to Ohio. And when asked why, they answered truthfully as well: "For the crack." This, needless to say, caused great disturbance for the officer. He thought they were at best taking the piss out of him, but more likely he thought they were high and told him the truth! Some careful and heated questioning later quickly resolved this dispute as being dialectical. I think after all that the officer was so relieved he didn’t have some international drug traffickers on his hands so he just let them go without a ticket.
So, perhaps this is not a great defense of the word. A more tenable defense would be to defend its unique connotation, as in reason #1. However, I think that as an American there are real consequences to me using the word "crack" in any sort of written communication, as we are unfortunately the progenitors of the crack cocaine problem. In spoken discourse, I can clarify what is meant by "crack" (after all, there is no differences in pronunciation between crack and craic), but in written communication I prefer to be misunderstood by my compatriots (who do not know what "craic" may be) than assumed to be making references to hard drugs.
I guess I could just not use the word, but with repeated visits to Ireland there are some words and phrases that have crept into my speech on accident. I tend to say that I "have something sorted" rather than "fixed the problem." I also say "fair play" and from time to time the word "shtuff" even pops out when I am being rather emphatic.
To those who live in a context where "crack" is understood to be fun, well… I guess my dialect and culture should not impose on your petty arguments. As a student of discourse studies and psycholinguistics, I take a descriptive rather than descriptive approach to correct usage. To me, the correct spelling is the one that is being used, rather than the one that has the most provenance. However, petty squabbling about language is all par for the course, so carry on, if it suits your fancy. I just thought it might be of interest to some who may share my affinity for nuanced opinion on inane topics such as cultural differences in the perception of alternative spelling.
To all else, enjoy your ceol agus crack, :-P.