Other comments from my father about possible Irish heritage were brief and definitive.
"Noooo," said my father, "we're not Irish. Our Doyles came from England."
"NO! No, we're not Irish."
Though I thought being Irish would be fun, not being Irish didn't really bother me. But imagine my surprise when, a few years after my father's death, I received a letter from his mother's sister, Brendice Gerner Davis, with the following statement about her own mother, Elvira Bartley Gerner: "My mother was Scotch Irish and had that Irish wit."
Whoa! What?!! Irish!??? We have Irish ancestors?!!!! It was on my father's mother's side of the family, the family with which he had little contact growing up. How would he have known that several generations back one of his greats came to America from Ireland? If the Doyle side of the family were traced a few more generations we would probably find Irish ancestors, too. In fact, one of my cousins is confident that we would.
To add a bit more humor to this post, Bernd Biege wrote an article, "The Irish Vernacular - Idioms and Phrases or: How to Make Sense of the Irish," in which he includes the following definition:
Yes and NoI guess that suggests how far my father was from his Irish roots when he so emphatically said, "No! We're not Irish! "
Irish does not really have a definite "yes", neither a final "no". This explains the abhorrence with which the use of these words is treated. They are avoided as far as possible. Only if pressed a clear answer might be given - the implication always being that both "yes" and "no" are in a state of flux and synonymous with "well, maybe, we'll see".
Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you!