How to Speak Irish-English

Here in Ireland, we have our own unique take on the English language.
Here are some of our lovely Irish words and phrases:

1. Having “notions”

In any other part of the world, this would be referred to as being pretentious or smug. In Ireland however, we have a much more derisive name for this: you mutter “pfft notions” in the vicinity of anything remotely…notion-y.

For example, say you’re at a party and your friend is serving champagne instead of boxed wine like most normal people, you lean in to the person next to you and whisper “pffffft, notions.”

Here are a few examples of people with notions:

~Anyone who drinks anything “herbal”.
~Anyone with a double-barred surname.
~Anyone who drinks any coffee other than Nescafé instant.

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Oh you better believe they all have notions.

2. A pencil sharpener is a “topper”

This is a hugely contentious issue here in Ireland. Some will refer to it as a parer while us more same types will refer to it by its true moniker, a topper.

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Pff, parers…notions!
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3. Everything is grand

The word “grand” can be used to describe almost every emotional state.
If you’re sick, you’re “grand, just a bit off colour.”
If you’re feeling good, you’re “grand now altogether.”
If you’re asked how you are, you always respond with “grand now.”
It can also be used to describe almost any weather condition:
“Grand soft day, isn’t it?” (When it is torrentially raining.)
“Grand fine day, isn’t it?” (When it is not torrentially raining.)

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4. “I do be watching telly on Saturday.”

In the English language, we mainly have the past, present and future tense. You say “I was”, “I am” and “I will be”. In Irish, we say “bhí mé” for “I was”, we say “tá mé” for “I am” and we say “beidh mé” for “I will be.” However, we also have an extra tense, “bíonn” which has no direct translation. It means “I am continuously”. For example, you maybe always drink tea at eight o’ clock on a Saturday night. To demonstrate this, you could say “I drink tea at eight o’ clock on Saturday night.” But the Irish could not translate it into English so when we want to show that do something continuously, we say “I do be.” If I go out dancing on Friday nights, I would say “on Friday nights, I do be dancing.” Confused? Good, you should be. It might sound a lot like bad grammar, but it ain’t.

5. Giving out

To give out means to get angry and complain.
“Me mam is always giving out to me.”

She is. She really is.

6. Runners

We call “trainers” or “sneakers” “runners”. I wear a lot of runners but I don’t do a lot of running because I’m rebellious like that.

7. “Bye. Bye. Bye bye bye. Bye.”

This is the only acceptable way to end a telephone conversation in Ireland.

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Even Liam Neeson knows…

8. “C’mere till I tell ya”

Roughly translates as “I must tell you something important.”

9. What’s the craic/how’s the craic/any craic?

Basically, we’re very interested in your craic. Wait, that sounds bad…

Craic means fun. It is not a class A drug, repeat, not a class A drug.

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although posters like this don’t help the confusion…
I see what you did there, Dara.

10. At all at all

Us Irish like to exaggerate. We also like to emphasise. We could tell you that we have no money, and you’d probably believe us. If we were to follow that statement with “at all at all”, oho, you’d better believe we’re telling the truth.

Now that you’re practically Irish, here are some bonus phrases for you:

“You know Mary? Mary? She’s related to your man who works for the butcher on a Thursday? No? She has the dog with the gimpy leg? Yeah. She’s dead.”

“So to get to Danny’s house you pass the church on the right. There’ll be a one eyed man with a patch smoking a pipe a hundred yards down the road, turn left. Then you’ll pass the house with the sheepdog. If he barks twice, turn right. If you get to a house with two broken windows, you’ve gone too far.”

“Jaysus, I’m freezin’..”

“Jaysus, I’m roastin’..”

Hope you enjoyed and feel free to share with any Irish friends!

19 thoughts on “How to Speak Irish-English

  1. jblondie says:

    This is so great! I’m totally bringing “pfft notions” here to the states and making it popular! haha. …You’re such a rebel…you and your runners🙂

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