Trip To Ireland Part 1: The Lingo

I recently took a trip to visit some buddies of mine in Ireland. I went with The Texan. Before you ask, no he couldn’t understand them, and yes they could understand him (and insisted he was a cowboy) and yes it was hilarious.

You’d think, being the huge Irish population in Chicago, I’d know everything there was to know. And I knew a lot. But, somethings slip by even me.

For the sake of not BORING you with details about the trip because honestly, it’s probably only interesting to me, I’ve decided to just post some amusing things you might find interesting about the green place and it’s people.

We went to visit some friends there and it was a great time. I learned quite a bit. We went to visit a guy we call Lucky, yes, it’s a nic name.

First things first…some lingo.

The word you’ll probably hear most: Craic. Pronounced “crack.” There is no definition for this word here in the US. It’s slang, sort of. Let me try to explain.

The first thing you’ll hear off the plane: What’s the craic? Tranlsation: How’s it going?

How was the craic? Translation: How was it (the party, the trip, etc).

What’s the craic today? Translation: What you up to today?

That’s good craic. Translation: That was good or that sounds like a good time.

That’s bad craic. Translation: That was no good. That sucks.

For the craic. Translation: For a good time.

Ok, so you get the idea.

Also, you WILL hear “wee”. Alot. Everything is “wee.” And for those not schooled in Irish people, “wee” does not always mean “little” or “tiny.” It can, it often does, but not always. For example:

“You’re so wee.” (which I heard a lot, goddamnit) means “You’re small.”

However, they will also say “She’s a wee lovely girl.” Which doesn’t mean she’s small, it means she’s lovely. I like her.

It can also be pity, in the same sentence. “Poor wee girl.”

Or it can mean “SOME.” For example: Would you like a wee coffee? I’ve got some wee cheese. Would you like a wee drink? Don’t expect they mean SMALL when they say that, especially when they are talking about liquor. But I’ll get to that later.

Food also is not described by food like terms. Food is not tasty, delicious, or yummy. Food is described the way you would describe a good looking person. For example: “This steak is gorgeous.” or “This coffee is beautiful.” Doesn’t mean it LOOKS good, means it TASTES good.

“Like” is also a totally acceptable way to end damn near any sentence. I picked this up years ago from hanging out with Irish people. I didn’t actually realized I’d picked it up until Mr. Big started saying it and I wondered why he was saying it, then Texan pointed out that I’ve ALWAYS said. Oops. Irish by osmosis.

There isn’t really a definition for the “like” factor. It’s not used the way we use it, we use like as a way to describe something. This is LIKE that. Instead, they would say “The coffee was hot but it was terrible like.” Translation being “The coffee was hot. It was horrible though.”

We would say “I didn’t mean to do that.” They would say “I did it, but not on purpose like.”

They also say Aye. Aye means yes, pretty plainly. More like “yeah.” Someone says “Aye” they mean yeah. Someone says “Aye right” they mean “yeah right” or basically “you’re full of it.”

You’ll almost never hear the words “supposed to.” For example, we’d say “I’m supposed to go to the doctor.” They’d say “I’m meant to go to the doctor.”

“Pint” also means “beer.” That’s pretty self explanatory.

“Bake” means “face.”

“Chips” are “fries.” That’s pretty universal in that region in general. “Crisps” are “chips.” Like that come in a bag.

And there is a difference between “shite” and “shit.” Now, I got a huge, hilarious lecture from Lucky’s friend on this. Apparently, “shite” is a grosser, more forceful way to say “shit.” He explained it like this: Shit is something you can “cut with a knife” (go ahead and gag, I did). Shite is something that’s “all over the place.” LOL! I’m actually laughing at this. Nice description huh?

Let’s recap shall we?

Here is a typical Irish paragraph

“I went to the pub, for some craic like, and I had a pint with the lads. I ordered the fish. It was meant to be battered like, it was gorgeous. They’re chips were shite. The chef told me they were fresh. Aye, right.”

So, I’ve got you so far.

The Irish also do not understand diabetics or the idea of carbohydrates. To them, diabetic means you can’t have SUGAR. Period. No sugar in your tea, basically. No sweets. They don’t really quite get that potatoes and bread are effectively the same thing. It’s really actually very endearing.

I say “Oh that looks wonderful, but I’m diabetic, I can’t have that.”

The reply “Oh, right. Well, I get you some wee chips then.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sure they are very good but I can’t have fries.”

“Why not? They are potatoes.”

“I know, potatoes are carbohydrates.”

“Oh, aye” (not really understanding what I meant but don’t want to argue) “I’ve got some wee wheaten bread then. Good for ya”

You get the picture.

Then of course there’s the Northern Irish thing of saying “so it is” or “so I am, did, etc”. I’ve no idea what verbal purpose this serves but it’s very common.

Me: “Is this the only grocery store in town.” Irish Person: “Aye, it’s the biggest one, so it is, but there’s one just down the road as well.”

Me: “Where did you go today?” Irish Person: “I’ve went to the store, so I did.”

Me: “Did you get what you needed from the store?” Irish Person: “They were closed, so they were.”

Irish people are also VERY nice. VERY VERY VERY nice. I’ll get to that later, but they aren’t “polite” in the way we think of here in the US. There isn’t a lot of please and thank yous or no ma’am yes sirs. They have their own way of being polite.

For example, if were to ask someone to hand you a beer from across the table in the US, the nice way to say it would be “May I please have that beer?” or more appropriately “Can you hand me that beer?”

Irish translation: Giz a pint.

That roughly translates into English as “Give us a pint.” It’s really cool to me that they are comfortable talking in the third person, it just took me a minute to get what they were actually saying.

The same with “Hi, how are you?” That’s how we would greet people here. Or if you were talkin’ to friends it’d be “Hey, what’s up?”

In Ireland, in Northern Ireland particularly, the proper way to say this is apparently to yell pretty enthusiastically “WHAT ABOUT YE?” This rightly scared the CRAP out of me and quickly made me laugh the first time I heard it. Lucky, the guy we went to visit, had warned me about people saying this and what it meant. I just didn’t expect it from a cab driver. I get in the cab and I say “Hi!”

Driver shouts “WHAT ABOUT YE?” I immediately widened my eyes and started to giggle, over the initial shock. I still have NO clue how you actually answer that question because it’s odd to me. No response seemed right.

“What about ye?” “Um, I’m ok” That doesn’t sound right

“What about ye?” “I’m fine, how are you?” That doesn’t sound right either.

So I just said “Thanks for coming so quick! It’s pretty weather today huh?” Ok, that was an international fail but I choked.

Bollocks: This can mean a myriad of things. It can be a form of exasperation, much like “shit!” If you drop something, you’d go “BOLLOCKS!” (pronounced Ballix).

“That’s bollocks.” Means: That’s BS.

Or it can mean testicles: “Punch him in the bollocks.”

Pissed or steaming: Meaning “drunk”

Fag: Means cigarette. Yeah. Takes getting used to, I know.

Arse: Ass

Mates: “friends”

Quare. There’s another word that took some getting used to. This can interchangably mean “weird” or “very” I think. For example: He’s a quare pup. Meaning “he’s a weird guy.” Or “That’s some quare craic” meaning “That’s a great time.” This one I’m still iffy on. For all the long I’ve heard it, it’s still a bit strange.

Dodgy: Means somethings up, strange, or not right, it can also loosely mean that sucks. Like “How’s the soccer game going?” “They’ve been doing well and now the other team has scored 2 points. It’s dodgy.” Or “The weather is dodgy.”

You’re a big lad. Meaning: You’re a small guy.

You’re a wee lad. Meaning: You’re a big guy.

Slagging. To mean: make fun of. “I’m just slaggin’ yeh.” I’m just playing around.

So, let’s go through a kind of casual Irish conversation between two Irish males.

Irish male #1: What’s the craic?

Irish male #2: What about ye? (said probably at the same time)

#1: Quare craic last night. Where were ye?

#2: I was meant to take my girl to hospital.

#1: That’s bad craic. She still sick, aye?

#2: Aye. They gave her antibiotics, so they did.

#1: Right. Poor wee girl

#2: Giz a pint. What was the craic last night?

#1: We got pissed. My mates arrived late like. They were meant to have met some girls at a pub.

#2: Aye, right

#1: We sat about slaggin each other. We ordered take away, the food was lovely.

#2: Oh, aye. Sounds like good craic. Sorry I missed it.

This is a very generic representation of what you’ll hear from the native males in their natural state. Be careful not to get too close to their beers though, they’ve been known to be aggressive when challenged. Although a generally fun loving and playful species, you must know the rules of this rare and endangered Northern Irish species to walk amongst them undetected.


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