Belfast Telegraph

Curry my yogurt: Gregory Campbell's 'pidgin Irish' just isn't funny

By Liam Clarke

I only remember one person who could parody a foreign language convincingly. It was Peter Ustinov, the actor and raconteur.

Mr Ustinov used to claim to have "Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Ethiopian blood in my veins" and he certainly could gabble on in cod Russian, German or, for all I know, Ethiopian and Italian amusingly.

He could, by turns, convey anger, fear, jealousy and amusement through a barrage of vaguely Slavic, African, or European-sounding gobbledegook.

Ustinov did it too skilfully and affectionately to cause offence to natives, but that is a rare gift, which Gregory Campbell clearly doesn't share.

He is just not funny - the only laughs were from his party colleagues, who were more delighted to see him getting a dig into the Shinners than amused at his rapier wit. Mr Campbell shouldn't be fooled into thinking he was clever.

"Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer," he told the Assembly on Tuesday. Apparently, it was meant to be a satirical rendering of, wait for it, "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle".

The Irish phrase, meaning "Thank you, Speaker", has been used by Sinn Fein members at the beginning, or end, of their speeches in the Assembly and, whenever they do it, that really seems to get Mr Campbell's goat.

This is the second time he has gone on record to make fun of it. Last time he made a stab at came out, "Cori my Yogi Bear, a can coca colya".

This is unedifying stuff and, even if he only tries to speak Irish every seven years, it quickly becomes tedious. It shows a leaden wit, a brass neck and a thick hide.

If Gregory Campbell has the thickest skin at Stormont, then Sinn Fein members have some of the thinnest.

Irish language speakers like to use the language wherever possible. It is referred to as the "cupla focal" (pidgin Irish for "a couple of words").

That shows dedication and enthusiasm, but they shouldn't be too surprised if some people find it a bit precious.

Mr Campbell has now been reported to everyone from the Speaker of the Assembly to the Human Rights Commission. That may be taking a bit of bad taste rather too much to heart.

Gregory Campbell should learn some manners but, above all, he shouldn't give up the day job.

In his case, politics is likely to pay better than the stage.

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