The cliché: As Irene gained strength and set her sails for the east coast this week, a familiar Celtic fiddle started sounding in America's head. It started on Twitter as observers began repeating the refrain. "Come On, Irene!" they tweeted. Pretty soon it was making its way into news headlines. New York magazine's Daily Intel wrote on Aug. 23, "It has the potential to be a category four storm, with winds between 130 and 155 miles per hour. Come on, Irene!" "Come on, Irene — it's hurricane season," blogged Bryan Walsh for Time. Come on, everyone, let's calm down. As the hurricane continues to advance, the "Come on Irene" gags have taken over.
Where it's from: We hope it's obvious by now, but the line is a play on the title of the 1982 song "Come on Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners. As for the pun's origins, Daily Intel, posting an item bemoaning it's widespread use, wrote "For the record, we went there first. We're not proud." Nor should you be, Daily Intel, since the "Come on Irene" tweets started among the common people (i.e. Twitter users) days before their August 23 use of it.
Why it's catching on: We must say, we had more faith in humanity than it deserved. At first we thought that everyone understood they were repeating a bad pun. But it seems there were people out there who actually heard the song lyric wrong and tweeted things like "'Come on Irene' just came on. You hafta think that's funny." "Had 'Come On Irene' a la Dexys Midnight Runners in my head. Then I realized it was the wrong name," admitted one honest webizen. So it seems some of the fury that has propelled "Come on Irene" to cliche status was at least partly motivated by a misunderstanding of the lyrics. We'll be fair and say that the British singer's words do get a little muddled there in the middle, ("You in that dress, oh I *mumble mumble mumble* you mean everythinggg" is usually how we sing along). Nevertheless, this pun is drawn right from the song title.
Why else: At some point though, we think a critical mass of people started understanding that it was a pun, not the real song name. Still, it proliferates. Why? We guess it's because people really do like the joke, they just enjoy singing the song, and they generally like having a little fun on Friday even when there are natural disasters hitting the east coast left and right. Still, might we suggest that now we've all had our "Come on Irene" giggles, we look for other, less commonly seen Irene puns? We'll shout out to Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) for our favorite Irene-related pun/news-mashup of the week: "In honor of Steve Jobs," he tweeted "I'm renaming it Hurricane iRene."