The “presentational gymnastics” of the DUP and Sinn Fein “all fell on its backside” to leave Stormont still without an agreement.
Talks on power-sharing in Northern Ireland did not collapse over whether or not there would be street signs in the Irish language.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) called time because even moderate Unionists were describing a proposed Irish Language Act as “cultural supremacy”.
Hard-line Unionists went on local radio programmes to warn that children in every school would soon be forced to learn Irish.
They claimed quotas in any legislation would give Irish speakers a distinct advantage in recruitment to Northern Ireland’s civil service.
With the DUP’s electoral base spooked, the best hope of political breakthrough in Northern Ireland’s 13 months without a government evaporated in a matter of hours.
But the public have not yet seen any draft agreement to ascertain if fears around the Irish language aspect of a possible power-sharing deal were justified.
Sources suggest there were three pieces of legislation on the table: one on the Irish language, one on the Ulster Scots language and one on culture.
If the first two were bills to be encompassed into a wider Culture Act, the DUP could claim they had not acceded to an Irish Language Act.
If the three pieces of legislation were to become three separate acts, Sinn Fein could claim they had won the standalone Irish Language Act they had been demanding.
After months of dancing on the head of a pin, the parties were back in the familiar territory of attempting to find creative ambiguity.
“They were engaged in political and presentational gymnastics,” said journalist and author Brian Rowan, a seasoned observer of Stormont politics.
“But shortly after 5pm on Wednesday afternoon, it all fell on its backside.”
And, with it, any hope of a swift return to devolved government.
Sinn Fein claim an Irish Language Act was agreed during the St Andrews talks, which brought them into power-sharing with the DUP 10 years ago.
Irish language enthusiasts say they want nothing more than what is contained in similar acts in Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
But this is not Scotland, Wales or the Republic of Ireland.
It is Northern Ireland and words are scrupulously analysed around here.
Some words are the same in both English and Irish and, ironically, a “deal” would have been a “deal” in any language.