Most of my conversations with Irish people are somewhat difficult. I have definitely improved in my understanding over the past two months, but I still find that I only catch about 50 to 75% of what they are actually saying. Irish people love to talk. They will keep talking, even after they ask you questions; this does not stop them from talking while you are trying to answer. And then they will talk to you about how you don’t really talk much.
Listening to Irish people talk makes me feel like I have slight brain damage. I can hear words, some of them even sound like words I know. But most of it sounds like a foreign language or maybe even gibberish. Despite the gibberish that I hear, the people around me are all understanding each other perfectly, even though their words are delivered in incredibly quick bursts of mumbles and slurs. And I’m talking about sober Irish people here.
I do not mean this to come off as offensive, in fact I feel stupid for not understanding Irish people as they speak; I am incredibly impressed by them all for understanding each other so well. Its like they are speaking in code and I am not quick enough to follow it.
During most conversations, I either desperately try to follow a strain of conversation based on some word that I didn’t hear correctly or could not even pronounce because to my ears, it is not a real word, OR I just daze off for a bit during the conversation until I realize someone is asking me what I think or if I want one or did I go there too? My response to these situations is usually always: “whaa?”
The following is a short list of Irish-isms that I have painstakingly pieced together. These are words or phrases that are very Irish. Some of them are not real words, as I have been trying to claim, yet I keep getting overruled.
Craic – very very common Irish word for fun. Pronounced “crack”. It is used in so many different ways I am not even sure if it only just a noun.
eejit – fun way they pronounce idiot
header (or sometimes nutter) – crazy person
jeaysus – my assumed spelling of Irish pronunciation of Jesus, usually used in exclamation
murder – used to describe something that is hard/difficult/a pain to do. I have heard this term a lot referring to someone’s work in the office
“out the door“- really busy (I am unsure if this is a definite phrase but in the context of the conversation, this phrase was used instead of really busy..
“over” – this word isn’t different in Ireland, but it is used a lot in reference to people, most likely celebrities, who are visiting/in Ireland. “Oh did you know that Obama was over?” (He was in Ireland recently)
hamper– gift basket (this was very confusing to me when my editor asked me to take a picture of the one in the office.)
indicators – blinkers/turn signals in a car. I have heard this yelled a lot, which is funny because its a weird word to yell.
fascinator – below is a picture of a fascinator. I learned this today when the mother of the bride (who’s wedding I was helping take pictures at) could not find her fascinator and urged me to help her look for it.
“such a gas“– I’m not really sure how to describe this, but I think it is a good thing. Like Oh that’s such a gas! Like that’s funny?
deadly – cool (I guess I get this one, but it is used in such strange ways, to describe ordinary things like purses or shoes.. I mean I guess if they were really high heels, you could say they were deadly… but thats not what they mean!)
Food terms you want to know:
crisps – potato chips (most likely Tayto’s) (also most likely cheese and onion flavored)
chips – fries
aubergine – eggplant
courgette – zucchini
blaa – a doughy white bread roll that is soft and usually sprinkled with white flour. Apparently you can only get a real blaa in Waterford, Ireland.
bap – is a small, individual round loaf of bread
I was apart of a ridiculous conversation about these two, after listening to two Irish people pronounce blaa and bap over and over again and finally having to ask what the hell they were talking about. The girl I was talking to, swears that a blaa is different than a bap and also not just a roll! Do you see a drastic difference between these two??
Random Words or Phrases That Should Be Explained:
“How ya gettin on?” – basically hear this every single day. When I first heard it, my immediate reaction of course was “whaa?”. In my head I quickly tried to break down this phrase: gettin on? What am I getting on? I got on the train this morning… I did that pretty successfully.. Is that what they want to know? Are we going somewhere and they want to know how I’m getting there? None of these work. This actually just means, “how are you” or “how are you doing with (insert task/job/life here)”.
“How do ya find it?” – again this one caught me off guard the first few times too. How do I find what? Is something missing? Usually I was asked this after I mentioned traveling to a certain city in Ireland. This is how it would go:
Me: “Yeah I went to Cork over the weekend.”
Irish person: “Oh grand, and how did you find it?”
Me: “Oh I just googled it and then took a bus there…”
This is not what they wanted to know. They are really asking me what I thought of something/the place or if I liked it.
(are you getting a sense of the painful awkwardness of my conversations thus far?)
“Your man” – this expression was explained to me before I had experienced it myself, but the warning did not prepare me to recognize or understand it once it finally did happen. It is confusing to explain so bear with me. Irish people will say the expression “your man” to refer to a random male person. THAT GUY. This person could have no affiliation with you at all, yet they still pose it as “yours”.
I was taking pictures at one of the train stops along the DART last week when a random guy came up to me and said: “Did ya get a shot of your man out there?” Of course I had to have him repeat himself, which only resulted in further confusion for me. He also added something like: “That’s the shot you want ya know. Train’s gonna be commin. Like a suicide story, couldn’t it be..?”
It wasn’t until he actually pointed where to look, did I see a man walking on the actual train tracks, and I finally understood what he was saying to me. This man on the tracks looked like he worked for the train station and was in no real danger, nor was he in any way “my man”. Needless to say that conversation was also added to the painfully awkward list.
“Are you goin’ out, or are you goin’ out out”?? – To understand this phrase, think back to a middle school phrase we all have used: “Do you like him or do you like like him?” As far as I can understand, going “out out” would entail some sort of party/more heavy drinking than just going out for say only one drink or just a meal.
“It’s only a tenner.” – This is referring to ten Euros. A fiver is also used…. (5 Euros)
“Half three” – 3:30 (pm or am)
“It’s gonna start pissing!“- in reference to the weather, specifically foretelling heavy rain.
“The sun is splitting the stones” – this is a fun one you might not hear often, because it refers to a very sunny day. On Friday while I was on the train home from work, I heard someone on the phone say that the sun was splitting the stones out here in Greystones. When she hung up the phone, she informed us that it was “absolutely pissing in Dublin”.
Everyday Words and Phrases:
“did ya now?”
“a little doat!”
“we’ll say nothing more of it”
“well isn’t that gorgeous”
“God, it’s a grand day for it, isn’t it? (what it is exactly, we will never know)
“you would, would ya? you would yeeeahh!”
“I will, yeah!”
(this is a entire conversation that I have heard many times)
This link below shows a video that might add to my explanations: