When I moved from Belgium to Ireland in 2002, I was on top of the world. I thought knew all I had to know about Ireland and sure, I’d adapt very quickly to living life a little bit slower than I was used to. Of course I had traveled to Ireland before actually moving over here, and had fallen in love with it even harder than I ever thought I would.
Dublin was a small disappointment at first because the truth is, Dublin is just like any other European capital. But the people, they were and still are the ones that would have me ending up in a stitch, or leave me wondering about their sanity on more than one occasion.
A wise man once said: “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” Sigmund Freud, when speaking about the Irish, could not have said it any better. Irish people will have a party because they know they will have another party in a week. Irish people find joy in everything and maybe that is why they are so friendly.
Yes, we say “thank you” to the bus driver, we talk to people unknown to us at a bus stop or a train station and we feel honoured when an Irish person pay us a visit at home. George Bernard Shaw said that “Ireland was the world’s largest open-air lunatic asylum” and he was not far off the mark, in fact, if he knew that Ireland is still like an open-air asylum, he would be a very happy man indeed.
“Rain is very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it’s quite fine, so fine that the Irish don’t even acknowledge that it exists,” Alan Parker, director of “The Commitments” once said. Mr. Parker could not have said it better either because the Irish are a funny crowd at the best or worst of times. In some ways the Irish have learned to deny or half-acknowledge that certain things really do happen in Ireland, but they survived a lot worse than rain, so why bother?
Aside from the good-tempered character of the Irish, they do have the “gift of the gab,” meaning they could talk themselves out of anything, anytime and anywhere. They sing, write and say the sweetest of words and do it with such gusto, that you cannot but believe everything they say.
I often hang on every word my Irish friends say, and in the back of my mind I think “keep talking, keep talking…” That said, there have been times where I have been flabbergasted because I had absolutely no idea what language (even though English) or meaning they were giving their words, and years later I still find myself smiling at the true gist of them.
“You’re me board” had to be translated into “you’re my bird” meaning “you’re my girlfriend”. I replied to this, “OK, I am not fat but not as skinny as a plank, you know!”
“No Billie, you are my B-I-R-D!!!”
“Oooooh… Okay… But I still am no…”
Sprogs; something as useless as tits on a bull; stop acting like a Baluba; howaya; dander; being away with the fairies; you’re/that’s gas…
I’ve had my eyebrows frowned more than once in the last 10 years or so. Sometimes you hear a bit of a curse in between, but you can never accuse the Irish of not being able to talk, properly or not. Or as Harold Nicolson said: “The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.”
Playing with words comes naturally to them, and soon after visiting Ireland the first time I picked up my first words. Actually, so much so that today, I’m often asked if I’m from the countryside in Ireland. Or others would hint at my Dublin accent, or that maybe I’m a culchie now living in Dublin. Others would say I have a Scandinavian accent, but only the type who think that Belgium is actually a Scandinavian country.
Winston Churchill said, “We always found the Irish a bit odd, they refuse to be English.” 800 years of domination would do that to a country. The Irish just refuse to be anything but themselves. In all their words, their heartaches and their wars they will not give up on the one thing that makes them stand out from other people: they are one happy crowd, whatever their circumstances, because they are… Irish.
“For an Irishman, talking is a dance.” (Deborah Love)
“The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven’t seen the joke yet.” (Oliver Herford)
“Those who drink to forget, please pay in advance.” (Sign at the Hibernian Bar, Cork City)
“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.” (Edna O’Brien)
“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?” (Quentin Crisp)
“The Irish people do not gladly suffer common sense.” (Oliver St. John Gogarty)
“We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.” (Oscar Wilde)
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