Irishisms

Ridley: It is said that the Irish people are a nation of storytellers. While I don’t know if this is true, it’s hard to judge yourself, I do believe that everyone here has at least one good tale to tell. We all also have one friend who was the class clown with the best, most outlandish long tailed stories, ever. This pal was just all round good craic. And when I say craic, I don’t mean the sniffy sniffy powder up the nose and now your flying through the stars kind. Craic here is everything from good banter, teasing (or slagging, which is basically good natured insulting, we love to do this), sarcasm, the atmosphere, jokes, music, singing, fun and just generally all of these combined to ensure you have a great time or night out.

Each country is unique. Personally though, I like to think the Irish sometimes have the strangest and sometimes hardest quirks to understand. So we’re going to share a few of them with you!

1. Irish people use a lot of fillers in their sentences that make no sense, though we understand them all the same and they sound nice. It keeps the conversation flowing (no awkwardness), examples included:

‘ah, sure that’s that really.’

‘You couldn’t be hoping for much more.’

‘Sure, what’s the use.’

We even have conversations with our cars-we just can’t shut up. The Irish like to talk. Des Bishop does a hilarious sketch of this actually. When we overtake someone in the car and they’ve moved aside to let you pass them. We switch on our hazard lights for a few seconds to say ‘thank you’ in car speak, then they will flash you with their head lights with a ‘you’re welcome’. You also get a ‘flash flash’ from oncoming cars, sometimes, to warn you about guards or speed cameras ahead of you (ah ha, policeman you won’t win today!) For the rude drivers or the ones in a particular hurry (but still rude) they come up behind you and flash you with their head lights asking you to move in. Once you do this and they’re safely ahead of you, you should receive a ‘thank you’ from their hazard lights.

2. Des Bishop also mentions the infamous immersion! It really is something that people in Ireland freak out about. Basically the immersion is turned on to heat up the water in your tank for the main taps or if you want a bath. Every single Irish mammy is convinced if you leave the switch on too long, the tank will explode. Even after my brother, who is an engineer, gave a massive explanation showing that it was actually impossible for it to blow up, my mother was silent for a moment and then said ‘Even still, just make sure you turn it off, you can never be too sure.’ No matter how many technical or scientific terms are hauled out, she’ll never be convinced!

3. We give the most confusing directions: “You go left, right, then you go right, right. When you come to the fork in the road, there’s a white gate to your left, ignore that and go the opposite way. Go down passed Lynch’s house, they’re the ones with the giant bullock in the field. Their dog is always digging up my azaleas, the fecker, go passed there, then go left, I think, and you’re there. Did you get all that?”

Despite these confusing directions, we’d prefer them to the sat nav. We have a deep seated suspicion and hatred for sat nav systems. We talk to them as if they can hear us. “You hadn’t a fecking clue where you were going, you got us lost again, you eejit!”

4. We’re a nation obsessed with the weather, we talk about it, complain about, analysis it and predict it. And at the merest hint of sunshine, we all strip down to our vests and shorts to show off our white chicken legs. We make the most of every sun ray as we know it won’t last long!

A good hello for any Irish person on rainy day would be; ‘Jesus, the weather’s desperate.’

And a typical answer to this? ‘Isn’t it just! You wouldn’t know what do be doing with it all.’ Nothing has actually been said here. It’s basically gibberish but the whole point is not to impart any important information as such, it’s just to be friendly and you’re showing a united, similarly miserable, front against the grey leaking clouds above.

5. In the summer, when the days get longer (the clocks change-we’ve daylight savings time) and eventually it’s still light at half 10 at night. People here will always remark, ‘There’s a grand stretch in the evenings.’ Grand here means nice or good.

Grand pops up a lot in Irish conversations. I tend to use it all the time. I don’t notice this, unless I’m abroad and I start to get funny looks. I like using it, though it is another example of a sentence filler. Say for answering something with a No, it softens it; ‘Ah no, you’re grand.’ Or you can also use it with a yes, ‘Oh grand, that would be great.’ Confusing, yes?

6. Red lemonade, it’s like normal clear lemonade, but with lovely chemical red dye in it. It’s unique to Ireland. We fought the E.U. to keep it, you know, when they tried to ban it. Yet I don’t know many people who actually drinks it these days, though because it’s ‘ours’ we don’t want to give it up.

7. Irish people and punctuality do not go hand in hand. We are generally late, for everything. This includes the public transport systems too I might add! 

8. When you pass an absolute stranger in your car on a country road, always wave, not crazy fast side to side wave, you’ll get a strange look for that. No, it has to be a slow hand up as you pass by (the even cooler, laid back farmer way is just raising a single index finger and a nod-the nod is optional.) If it’s a sunny day, you may get the wave out the open window. Exciting.

9. We all love cheese and onion flavoured Tayto crisps. Anyone who says they don’t isn’t a true Irish person. Quite a number of people will also get two slices of white bread and put the Taytos in between them to make a crisp sandwich. Yummers. (I don’t actually do this. Loads of other people do this though.)

10. We’re a nosey nation, we like to know about our neighbours and we gossip about them constantly. A simple hello can lead to the history of a single family, an example of an actual conversation I overheard yesterday:

“I saw Johnny Mac Donagh up town.”

“Johnny Mac Donagh, now whose he?”  (This question is really more, where does he come from, who are his people? You’re judged on your family, relations and connections more so than what you’ve achieved yourself.)

“He’s related to Josie who married Jim Murphy, the garage man. Bit of a scandal in that family. He was originally going with her second cousin Mary, then dropped her like a hotcake when he met Josie, but sure it all worked out in the end. They got married and had little Eoghan who ended up being a doctor. Or was it a vet? No, a doctor! Now he’s over in the Amazons or some such place, playing with monkeys.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, Johnny was just out for the milk and the papers.” 

(And I was left wondering, what happened to poor Mary? And if little Eoghan was a doctor and not a vet, why was he ‘playing with monkeys’ in the Amazon?)

11. We have to refuse something three times before accepting it. It takes a type of coaxing to get us to agree. I think we say the first no out of politeness, we don’t want to impose, the second is to double check the person offering is serious and not just doing it out of courtesy, then the third time you can relent. When it comes to food or drink, never just assume an Irish person’s first no, actually means no. Always check with an ‘Are you sure?’ There will probably be a ‘Ah no you’re grand’, in this instance you just have to say ‘Ah, go on!’ And with a giant grin the other person will get stuck in to whatever you’re offering. You HAVE to ask again- this is very important. If not, when you walk away the Irish will turn to each with horrified looks and go, ‘the cheek of that! What was yerman/yerone thinking? Oh I’m ripping (angry)’!

If you’ve ever seen the show Father Ted, Mrs Doyle’s offer of tea with ‘Ah go on, go on, go on….” is a more exaggerated version of what actually happens. Speaking of tea, it is drunk the country over. There are two brands that rival each other here. You’re either a Lyon’s or a Barry’s tea drinker. Choose your side! (Lyon’s would be our preferable brand. We love you Lyons!) Tea is drunk for numerous reasons, and for no reason at all. I think the average is four cups a day per person in Ireland. Perhaps when I’m working I average around 4 cups, but on a day off….that could be easily doubled! I do like fancy coffees too, but if I was only ever allowed one or the other again in my life, I’d always choose tea.

12. When we go abroad, we love to use Irish. It’s our secret language. We could hate it with a passion when we’re at home, but when we visit a different country we all suddenly start using a cúpla focal as gaeigle (couple of words in Irish), knowing gleefully no one else can understand us. Though I’m waiting for the day someone turns around and starts talking back in Irish to me, that would be awkward!

13. Despite speaking English, we’ve warped it in such a way that someone visiting the country, even if they’re completely fluent in it, might think we’re speaking a different language all together. We’ve different sayings or ways of saying things that make no sense to visitors.

  • She’s a pain in the face (she’s very annoying).
  • How’s she cuttin’? (how are things going? Very much a country saying.)
  • I was scarlet for her (a Dublin saying, meaning I was embarrassed for her.)
  • Fair play to you. (well done to you-if you’ve succeed at something.)
  • It’s Baltic in here or it’s perishing in here (it’s absolutely freezing in here)
  • The craic was ninety! (it was fantastic fun)
  • What’s the story? (Another type of hello with also how are you incorporated into it, it’s a more Dublin version)
  • He’s a fine thing. (he’s handsome)
  • Don’t be foostering (don’t be messing around/wasting time)
  • She’s going to eat the head off you (she’s really angry and going to yell at you.)
  • Well (very lazy hello, how are you, between very good friends)
  • You made a hames of that. (you messed that up badly)
  • Would you cop on. (would you get some sense. Stop being an idiot.)
  • She’s a goose gob (she’s a silly idiot)
  • You’re gone in the head (You’re crazy/mad)
  • I’ll give you a shout. (It’s a way of saying good bye, ‘I’ll speak to you later’ but without any sort of actual commitment to do this. It’s an empty promise really!)
  • You wouldn’t be going to the shop? (‘be going’ comes from a tense we have in Irish, it’s called the continuous present. Also, we tend to ask for things in the negative. You wouldn’t be getting milk in the shop? Hinting that you’d like milk too.)

That’s just a few quirks that we have. It probably makes us all look a tad mental. But crazy can be charming….right? 🙂

If you’re looking for a funny look at Irish people and the strange things they love and say try this book: Stuff Irish People Love. Everything in it is so true!!

I’d love if anyone would like to share national traits from your country, are there many of them? Is there a country quirkier than Ireland? While you think of a few, I shall return to my book trailer creating! The days are flying by too quickly, we’ve so much to do before our book is published!

20 thoughts on “Irishisms

    1. You can ask her about Lyon’s tea and Tayto crips now! haha.
      Even if we go abroad to live, it seems we just can’t shake our Irishness! Sometimes it’s good to take on a few traits of other nations, being on time would be an excellent one! 🙂

  1. Latimer: Ridley, get away ar’a dat! Tayto sandwiches are king- I am shocked and appalled that you don’t eat them on a very regular basis… that and the Roy of the Rovers bars in the past! One of these days, we’ll turn to each other and go, ‘this was never going to last, we’re just too different’!

    1. Ridley: Unfortunately that day has come, this was never going to last, we’re just too different.

      Mwahaa. That was a tad obvious on my part….
      Hush up you, I’ve never once seen you eat a Tayto sandwich!
      I’m pretty certain it would taste lovely, but I really don’t need another bad thing to crave!
      And Roy of the Rovers? Pah, I raise you Macaroon bars, now they were proper bars of the past!
      I stole your tea rap song for the post too I might add. Thankies *wide toothy grin*

  2. This post fascinated me. It’s a dream of mine to visit Ireland someday. One of the main characters from my book is Irish. Based on your post, I think I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to make her dialog authentic. Wow.

    1. Best of luck with your character!! Just to let you know, some of the sentences above are Dublin specific and others are from the country! We can point out which is which if you need. If you ever want to double check something or ask a question with regards your character, don’t hesitate to message us, you’ve two ready-made Irish people here! 🙂 We’ll help if we can.

  3. This is hilarious! I thought we Americans have strange mannerisms. Actually over here, it various a lot by location. I an east coast person which is totally different from someone from the south or midwest! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Haha, thanks! This is only the tip of a very large deranged ice berg! I’d love to hear the differences one day between an east coast and south or midwest American person! Did I mention I loved your header with the cat and the empty Starbucks cups? A kitty caffeine addict! lol

    1. Thanks Frances! It is good, isn’t it? Though it does depend on what flavour of crisps you put into the sandwich! One by one we’ll convert others to the loveliness of crisp sandwiches! Haha

  4. I really want to go to Ireland! I’ll be more prepared now. In fact, I had my eye on a castle that was for sale a while ago, in the southeast I think–Ballyhealy castle. I think it might have been sold, though that was a distant dream, of course.

    1. Ballyhealy? Down in Wexford! Lovely part of the country! And near the sea, the beaches down there are fab! Think it’s sale agreed now. That’s funny that you were looking at castles, I glance at them now and then, dreaming of one day owning one too! Fat chance! Haha. Though my friends and family always point out they’d cost hundreds to heat and I point out they’re being dream squashers! 🙂 Go to daft.ie that’s the number one property site in Ireland for buying/renting and if you search the high prices you’ll get to see some of the manors and castles for sale, it’s fun to look at the pictures!

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