Irish: A Manner of Speaking

Once again I am finding myself in WordPress-Blog-space. It’s a happy space if you ask me. Slowly I am learning about blogging and about writing and I am finding my own voice. When I received the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge email about slang and phrases that are unique to where bloggers live, I need not have looked or thought too hard about what I was going to write about: “For this week’s writing challenge, showcase your slang. It can be a display of regional pride, a contemplation on new words you’ve heard, but still don’t quiet understand, or a practice in dialogue that mimics our regular speaking patterns. Need a few ideas to get you going? Pick a word or phrase that is unique to where you live or your cultural background. Tell us a story about how it came about, what it means to you, and how it’s used.

Ireland – and its people – have a pure talent for conveying words and phrases that linger long after we have heard them. I have often found myself ‘flabbergasted’, meaning that I was and still am amazed at the way Irish people treat their adopted English language. Despite having a troubled, painful yet colourful past with its captors, Irish people now embrace the English language as something they’ve reinvented. Slang is found everywhere on this tiny island, and often it’s heard from the tiniest of people to the wisest of elders (check out this little fella here… he’s gas!

In my opinion, Irish (Gaeilge) however, the original language is slowly dying and unless the government comes forward with serious attempts to restore the desire in its citizens to speak the language, it will die an agonizing death. Alongside the decline of family values (meaning that young people will not hear their elders use the language), financial burden (no time to study Gaeilge) and the arrival of new, more independently thinking immigrants, I fear that Irish will be gone soon enough. If taught differently in schools, perhaps students would love to speak Irish more often, but if a language, just like any other school subject, is stamped into the mind of a student, the desire to eventually use the acquired language will be nil (let’s just say it’s a ‘been there, done that’ situation in my case when French was almost drilled into my brain. Now I try to avoid speaking the language altogether because I’ve no tender feelings left for it).

On the other hand, as with each generation, kids grow up using a slightly different vocabulary than the previous one. When I hear and see my niece talk on FB for example, I see her use words I have to Google to understand what on earth she’s yapping about. I presume my granny and mum felt the same when I was growing up and when my friends and I were saying things that were gibberish to them.

As far as Irish is concerned, I hope kids and teens will forever use the slang I am now used to. After ten years and a half of living in Ireland, I still smile quite often when I hear Irish people say things that in my mind sound utterly funny. As with all languages, it takes a while to get used to slang, to understand its background and reason for using a particular word.

We all know the Irish have a lack of concern of how others perceive them (at least the Irish people that I know!). What others therefore think about their language is still an ongoing topic and we bounce and translate words, often laughing at the idea of that particular word.

For example: if/when people are ‘going on the piss’, they have other, tastier liquid ideas in mind. It means that they are going out, to the pub, to a restaurant or house to drink. Do not take ‘the piss’ too literally so! (unless said subject has been on the piss for a good while, he/she will obviously need to relieve him/her at some stage). Once people are pissed as fart, you can understand they are by then well… plastered, banjaxed, langer and in dire need of litres of strong coffee.

Another way of disregard is terms of endearment they use for people they don’t necessarily like. Words like eejit, wanker, plonker, knacker, skank and gobshite are derogatory terms you should not use out loud. These words are not terms I use but it fits the idea of Irish have a way with language.

Before achieving the Dublin slang and accent, I had a relationship with a Corkonian. Everyone knows about the friendly rivalry between Dublin and Cork, and they each have their own use of words, like ‘like’. Every sentence Corkonians use contains at least once the word ‘like’, mostly at the end of each sentence. ‘I was like, going to the hairdresser yesterday and I hated the result because that woman was like… urgh… not a hairdresser, like!’ Because of this, Dubliners can spot you from a mile away if you say ‘like’ just like, once or twice. I used to get stick at work – especially from the Dubs – about my secret collaboration with the enemy! That was like, oh my god… just so annoying, like!

Another example was another ex-boyfriend – this one from Dublin – calling me ‘his board’. ‘Er… ohkay… board you said? I am not that skinny you know!’ was my reply. He said ‘no, b-i-r-d’ as in bird (still spoken as ‘board’). I thought I’d better leave it at that, trying to get used to his utterly north Dublin accent and his use of terms I secretly had to look up in the beginning. Now I am laughing when I think of those days, and the memory of his use of his Irish/English language still make me feel warm inside. ‘How are you’ sounded like ‘Hawaya?’ and I thought he’d better tell me Yabbadabbadoo instead because at least that I understood the first week or so of being together. Pretty soon I caught up with him though and I still glow inside when Irish people take me for another Irish person because of my acquired Dublin accent when I talk.

My use and way of how I said ‘Jaysus’ at all times of the day also had my Irish friends, college buddies and colleagues in a stitch. I was told I could say ‘Jaysus’ better than any Irish person, a remark I still like to brag about!

Words and sentences like the following are also typically Irish. ‘The cheek of her being up the duff from yer man with that old banger and that kip of a house! Their shenanagans must have her sick as a plane to Lourdes when he should have told her ‘on yer bike’ instead! He must be off his rocker also and shtarving so much that he could eat a cow between two bread vans. Then again, he could talk for Ireland so he should have used his bits properly instead of misplacing them all the time!’

There’s no doubt that I will continue learning Irish slang as long as I am living here, and it never once got me into trouble. Not too sure about the Irish using their sweet terms of endearment though. I’d hate to be on the receiving end of a waterfall of slang I need an Oxford dictionary for to unravel its meaning!

So may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the crotch of the person who screws up your day and may their arms be too short to scratch!

For more info on this week’s writing challenge, go to

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on “Irish: A Manner of Speaking

    1. Thank you so much! And wow… I’m chuffed about the award! Thank you once again! (***Billie now doing a celebration dance*** :D)

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