Speaking English in Ireland

Posted by Niamh Allabyrne on the 26th of August 2013 at 09:50:35

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In Ireland we have an unique way of speaking – between our diverse accents, the way we emphasis vowels in a different way to other English speaking countries, our everyday phrases and expressions and just by simply speaking English “our” way – unmistakably Irish, using turns of phrase which may sound strange or even grammatically incorrect (I’m after making a cup of tea!) though often this is the result of how we once spoke Irish – a different animal grammatically and linguistically to English.

And while the Irish welcome thousands of visitors each year to her shores – with even more Irish going abroad between vacations, gap years and just plain old emigration - our use of language largely remains unchanged – confuses our non-Irish friends which in turn baffles us as to why people just don’t understand us when we are making ourselves very clear! Ahem!

Working in an office with lots of nationalities, many of whom had thought that they were fluent in English until they actually got here, we came up with some of the words and phrases which when initially heard were met with confusion, diving for dictionaries and Google searches are - once understood - wholly absorbed and regularly used! Fair whack!

So in no particular order - here we go!!

Grand – a word probably most overused in Ireland and if somebody asked us to stop using it, I reckon Ireland would be quiet for at least a minute - we have the gift of the gab after all!! Grand is used for EVERYTHING! How are you? Grand. How’s the weather/granny/kids/knee/dog/boat/car – whatever – we will say grand – even all of these things are awful, dead, runaway or stolen– they are all grand! Both the happiest and saddest people in Ireland will use “grand” when asked a question and there is no real way of deciphering where that “grand” lies on the happiness scale!

Chips v. Crisps – usually confounding our American friends - our chips are French Fries and our crisps our chips!

Hole in the Wall/Drink Link – ATM machines

Sambo – sandwich

Gas - not the stuff you put in your car (that’s petrol) but usually referring to something funny – "that joke you told? – gas!”

Boot – trunk of the car

Eejit - not a particularly harsh term but usually used to call someone a fool –in a light hearted way – i.e. “you forgot your keys – you eejit”. Don’t be offended if called one, it’s just a gentle reminder that you were slightly foolish on some level (although this is usually based on what the person calling you an eejit deems to be actually foolish!)

Craic – as in “where is the craic? “- “how is the craic?“ – “do you have any craic?” – non-Irish back slowly away thinking that they have unwittingly stumbled into a drug den – but we Irish are only looking for the fun or the latest gossip from whom ever we are talking to!

Are you ok? – not really as caring as it sounds! It’s usually asked when you are waiting to be served – so give your order and not a run-down on your mole removal!

How are you getting on?/ What’s the story?/How’s the form?/How’s things?/All right?–ways of asking how you are! Answer – grand!

Acting the maggot – one my Dad used a lot (!) – basically saying you are misbehaving or messing around – usually aimed at bold children and even bolder politicians!

Thingamajig/Yoke/Watchamacllit/Thingymabob/Yokeymabob – we don’t like to use the word “thing” in Ireland for some reason and so we have several words we use instead. Akin to the Eskimo’s having lots of words for snow, there are lots of words we use for “thing” and if the person doesn’t understand what we are looking for, we just keeping shouting louder and louder “you know that yoke for the thingamabob” until the shouter or shoutee cracks!

Get up the yard/Get out of that garden/Don’t be messing/ No way – usually said in disbelief – as in - "Did you hear that Pauline’s husband ran off with their 19 year Ukrainian nanny? Get up the yard!"

Now – this is used like a mini announcement – we use it just as we are about to do start or finish something – and that’s all we say! So if you hear a random “now” followed by silence it’s just someone starting/finishing a task – no need to answer!

Jayus –used instead of Jesus – but meaning the same thing – this is used a lot! In our office anyway! Used in annoyance, surprise and joy and a whole gamut of other emotions nothing says that someone’s been here a while than when you hear “Jayus” in a strong German accent! Makes us proud and brings a tear to our eye! You’re one of us now!

And so that’s just some of the examples we found here. There are plenty more, and they differ depending on the part of the country and even the age of the person. But next time you’re in Ireland you can practice some of these phrases and you never know you may be even be mistaken for a local! So book one of our tours today and start practicing!

And if you liked this blog have a look at the linguistic differences between American and Hiberno English here!

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