Feb 26 2014

Follow up: Donegal Danny

Some time ago I opined that the folk song Donegal Danny contained an erroneous lyric, e.g., “the cries of drowning men.” At the time I snarkily mentioned that the only sound thatI thought drowning men would make was, “glub.”

Well, it turns out that I am right. There is an excellent article at Slate called ‘Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.’ In addition to verifying my rightness, it contains several valuable tips on how to spot and help a drowning victim. I am listing two Danny-related ones: 

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
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Nov 17 2011

Donegal Danny

There is a folk song called Donegal Danny about a man whose ship was caught in a storm and all of his fellow fishermen perished.

Here are part of the lyrics:

“And often at night when the sea is high
And the rain is tearing at my skin
I hear the cries of drowning men
Floating over on the wind.”

I’ve heard this song several times, but it was only yesterday that I realized that ‘the cries of drowning men’ should sound like:

‘Glub, glub, gluuuububbbb.’

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Jan 27 2009


Though I have repeatedly told my kids that there is no such thing as luck, my youngest daughter will still occasionally either make or give me something to take with me “for luck.”

The current item, which I have carried with me now for two winters, is a buckeye. I used to wear a bead bracelet she made me, but it frequently got in my way while working.

I bring this up so I can tell you the following story:

A couple of years ago I went on a float trip with some of the men in our church. While I am not a strong swimmer [read: I am desperately hydrophobic],  I still enjoy boating on bodies of water I can see the bottom of.

I was in a canoe with Tim, an ex-Marine (though some contend there is no such thing as an “ex” Marine). The pastor and Forrest were in another canoe, and Bruce and his son Travis were in a third canoe.

This is the way I remember what happened: the Pastor fired an opening salvo, saying something about how they were in the lead because they were the Navy, and how we were trailing because we were the Marines. So Tim and I kicked in the afterburners and blew past the S.S. Pastor.

While we were still speeding ahead, we came to a partially submerged stump, almost in the exact center of the river. I was in the bow, and I had to make a snap decision: left or right. I chose left, the opposite of right. You know what else is the opposite of right?

We were slightly right of the stump when I guided us left, and then I found that the heretofore lazy river was moving quite swiftly at this point. I found it out because the current pushed the canoe immediately sideways, and I was thrown immediately overboard.

I have already mentioned that I am not a strong swimmer. It was a blazing hot day, and, like an idiot, I wasn’t wearing my lifejacket.

I managed to control my phobia keep my presence of mind and swim upwards with my hands above my head to keep me from banging it on the bottom of the canoe, which I then climbed into.

So, in the end, wasn’t it a lucky bracelet?

No. No, it wasn’t.

There is no such thing as luck.

But I still keep the bracelet.

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