07 February 2014

Our hyphenated ancestors

If you’re English-Irish, come into the parlour is the heading on the most recent of John Grenham's Irish Roots columns for the Irish Times. Apparently Polish-Irish, Nigerian-Irish, Filipino-Irish are widely accepted terms in Ireland, and we all know of the Scots-Irish, but English-Irish comes out only with difficulty in Ireland.
Chinese-Canadian, Somali-Canadian, and a United Nations full of other such combinations are a commonplace in Canada. English-Canadian and French-Canada refer more to the native tongue than the national origin. Thus the French-Canadians with Irish surnames.
Being English born and bred, a long time Canadian citizen and resident, I now think of myself as Canadian when in Canada; English-Canadian or English-born Canadian when pressed about my accent; and puzzled at how things have changed when I return to England.
Is it only those of us with European origins who are so flexible in how we describe ourselves? Has that always been the case?


Anonymous said...

I think of myself as a Canadian from Ontario-an Ontario-Canadian. My family for the most part lived in Ontario when I was growing up. Summer vacations were spent there. Having been born and raised in Quebec province, I always have to explain that I am not French Canadian. English speakers did live in Quebec province. Schooling was segregated by language and religion.

PatG said...

I am first generation of British parentage. I have lived here all my life and consider myself Canadian, but my cultural background and references are sometimes very different from other "Anglo-Canadians"

Anonymous said...

I can't think of myself as anything but Canadian. My earliest ancestors arrived in Nova Scotia from the U.S. ca 1760 and the most recent arrival was my great-grandmother who arrived from Ireland via Boston ca 1875. I have no family connectio to any country but Canada.