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Jeffery Archer’s new mystery, “False Impression” ends up with the following sentence in the very last scene where a shrewd FBI agent, Jack Delaney, invites his girlfriend, Anna Petrescu, whom he saved from a ferocious assassin by the skin of her teeth, to Irish stew dinner at his mother’s house to introduce her as his Miss Right.

“But before you agree, there’s something I have to tell you,” said Jack.

“And what’s that?” asked Anna.

“My mother is under the illusion that you’ve already been married three times, you have five children, not necessarily by three husbands, four of them are on hard drugs. Other one is in jail. She also thinks that you work in a far older profession than art consultancy.” (Jack actually made the same joke to his mother before).

Anna burst out laughing. “But what will you tell her when she discovers that none of it’s true.”

You’re not Irish,” said Jack.

I don’t understand what this very last line, “You are not Irish” means. Does it mean you aren't innocent like my mom (or dumb like me), who is Irish? But readers already know his mother is Irish and Anna isn't.

There must be a definite reason why Arther Jeffery took bother to emphasize this great mystery with the specific phrase "You're not Irish." He shouldn't have inserted this phrase just for naught.

Does it still make sense if I replace Irish with other nations, say British, Scottish, American, French, Italian, or even Japanese, provided Jack’s family is as such?

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You deserve a badge for reading to the end of a Jeffrey Archer novel. –  TheMathemagician Dec 20 '13 at 13:18
    
@TheMathemagician. I happen to be a fan of Jeffery Archer’s fictions. I’ve read his “Not a penny more --,” “To cut a long story,”“And thereby hang a story,” “Kane&Abel,” “Forth Estate,” “False Impression,” “Shall we tell the President” to date. What do you recommend as the most interesting one out of Archer’s prolific works, if you're a fun of his work? –  Yoichi Oishi Dec 22 '13 at 1:29
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3 Answers

Jack's mother will be so relieved that none of the other stories about Anna are true that she will be less upset when she finds out Anna is not Irish.

The context allows one to assume that Jack's mother has her heart set upon any woman Jack ends up with being Irish. Since Anna presumably isn't, Jack has told her all sorts of horrible untruths about Anna, painting her as the worst sort of person imaginable. The supposed result of her finding out that Anna is nowhere near as bad as she had been described is that she will be so relieved, she will overlook her non-Irishness. The joke could be told of any nationality or religion; the Irishness is incidental

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Mother - I'm leaving the hospital,my wife and the kids to run off with a male stripper! Yes mother, it's ok he IS Jewish –  mgb Oct 15 '11 at 20:29
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See also snopes.com/college/pranks/letter.asp. –  James McLeod Oct 15 '11 at 21:15
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Yes, it's nothing to do with the Irish having any reputation for humour. To be honest, I'm not aware they do anyway. It's just that the Irishman is often stereotyped along with blondes as "dumb" in jokes. But I'm not so sure of the stereotyping when an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a pub, and the barman says "Is this some kind of joke?" –  FumbleFingers Oct 15 '11 at 22:07
    
@James Mcleod. I read “Daughter’s letter home” you fed me, and found Jack’s gab is simply a new version of the surprise letter. It’s a tremendously interesting and entertaining learning, but still I’m not clear with the implication of “You’re not Irish.” We know Jack’s mother is Irish, but what significance does “Irish” have here? –  Yoichi Oishi Oct 16 '11 at 0:15
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The context allows one to assume that Jack's mother has her heart set upon any woman Jack ends up with being Irish. Since Anna presumably isn't, Jack has told her all sorts of horrible untruths about Anna, painting her as the worst sort of person imaginable. The supposed result of her finding out that Anna is nowhere near as bad as she had been described is that she will be so relieved, she will overlook her non-Irishness. The joke could be told of any nationality or religion; the Irishness is incidental. –  James McLeod Oct 16 '11 at 0:30
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One thing a non-native speaker such as yourself might not notice is the names.

Delaney is an Irish name. Petrescu sounds Eastern European to me. I'd guess Polish, if forced to guess.

So this is a bit of a joke, in that he's telling her that he softened his mom up for the big blow of his girlfriend not being of the same ethnic background as his family, by telling a bunch of lies to make her sound like a moral reprobate. The idea being that when she finds out those things aren't true, the not being Irish part will seem like small potatoes.

The list of lies were also a bit tailored to an Irish (or at least Catholic) mother's list of bad qualities in a person. A person who has been married more than twice is almost certainly divorced at least once, and devout Catholics don't believe in divorce. Also, there's an implication there of out-of-wedlock sex ("not necessarily by three husbands"), which devout Catholics also frown heavily on. Such a woman would not be allowed to take Communion in many Catholic churches. If he married her, there's a good chance he and their kids would not be welcome either, because the Church would not consider their marriage valid. It would be like her son was signing up for excommunication.

Yes, it makes perfect sense if you replace Irish with pretty much any other USA immigrant Catholic community (Italian, Polish if you change the girlfriend's name too, etc.). Japanese would probably work too, but you'd have to change the list of lies to something a stereotypical Japanese mother would find repellent in a person. I doubt English or Scottish would work very well, as those are the two oldest (one might say founding) immigrant communities in the USA, so they tend to assimilate with few issues.

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I know Petrescu is a Romanian name if that's any help. –  z7sg Ѫ Oct 17 '11 at 15:42
    
@z7sgѪ - A pretty big difference in this case, actually. Most Romanians are Orthodox, not Catholic. After looking into it, I think you are right though. –  T.E.D. Oct 17 '11 at 15:55
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Delaney has told his mother a large number of highly negative untruths about his girlfriend ("you work in a far older profession than art consultancy," refers to prostitution, the world's oldest profession, as do all the other lies, about multiple husbands and children). He has also told the mother (Delaney, an Irish name),* one "positive" lie, that she's Irish when she really isn't.

After the mother gets the feeling of relief by the "fact" that the girl (Romanian, by nationality) is none of the bad things she's been told, the man will then confess that the part about her being Irish is also a lie, to soften the blow.

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*Actually, the mother might not even be Irish. But she clearly married Mr. Delaney because HE was Irish, and wants her children to do the same. In America, I once heard of an Italian woman who married an Irishman, and insisted that her children marry Irish, and not Italians. –  Tom Au Jan 17 '12 at 17:48
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