How to Speak Irish English
If you’re visiting Ireland this Paddy’s Day (or maybe just your local Irish pub!) then be prepared; the craic will be 90, everyone will be throwing shapes and make sure you don’t act the maggot or else you’ll just make a hames of the night.
Still following? No? Thank goodness you found us then!
For such a small country (just 84,000 km² and over 6 million inhabitants), Ireland has huge variations in regional accents, dialects and slang. To outsiders, ‘Irish’ English can sometimes seem like a totally different language altogether. But never fear – we’re here for you. Our little lexicon will help you speak English like the Irish in no time at all. (Happy days!)
Go ’way outta that!
A statement of dismissive disbelief, normally in response to a particularly juicy bit of gossip, a compliment about their appearance (the Irish don’t take compliments well) or the exceptionally reasonable price of your outfit. Simply put, it means the person doesn’t believe you – and they’re a little over the top in doing so.
Are you well? Cos you’re looking well.
A compliment of the highest order; often heard in pubs or nightclubs by lads (guys) fuelled with a bit of Dutch courage, it’s the Irish version of Joey Tribbiani’s “How you doin’?”
If you’re popping to shops and an Irish person asks you for a mineral, they are not, you’ll be comforted to know, asking you to retrieve an iron ore in between stocking up on bread and milk. Put away the metal detector, grab them a 7 Up or a Diet Coke and you’ll make your life a lot easier. P.S. Minerals and ‘fizzy drink’ are also interchangeable, so use them at your own discretion for true cultural immersion.
Ah here/Ah stop!
A particularly Irish phrase of indignation, you’ll hear this in moments of pure irritation – whether that’s your mam (mother) deciding you all have to go to Mass Sunday morning or when your friend helpfully suggests you don’t, in fact, need that fourth Jägerbomb (the cheek of some people). Couple these with an outraged “leave it out!” and you’ll be a certified Irish person in no time.
When an Irish person says they’re ‘allergic’, they are not literally referring to an adverse physical reaction, but simply a mental aversion to something (although if your new friend Aoife’s allergic to nuts and has accidentally ingested a cashew, then please assume she’s more than emotionally disinclined and seek appropriate medical assistance). To be ‘allergic’ to something in this context means to be unwilling, reluctant or opposed to the issue in question – often helpfully partnered with a groan or heavy sigh, for dramatic effect.
To make a ‘show’ of yourself means to make a spectacle of yourself. Basically, you’ve just done something incredibly embarrassing, whether that’s texting your ex four times in a row at 3 o’clock in the morning or you’ve let it slip that you were sure Kuwait was another Kardashian. It’s really something to be avoided at all costs. One might also say they’re ‘scarlet’ if they’re feeling particularly red in the cheeks.
I will yeah!
Always, always, always means no. If you ask your friend to drop you to the airport for your 4am flight to Spain and they respond with “I will yeah!”, do not – I repeat, do not – turn up at their front door at 03.50 in the morning with your neck pillow and sunglasses at the ready, because you WILL be told where to stick them (and it’s not nice).
The name Irish people use for all crisps (potato chips for speakers of American English), regardless of brand. Typically coupled with a white sliced pan like Brennan’s and creamy Kerrygold butter, the humble Tayto sandwich is a staple in any self-respecting Irish person’s diet. Taytos are so important to the Irish that they’ve taken pride of place at some people’s big days as – wait for it – delicious wedding favours! And the sky’s not the limit for good old Taytos; you can now enjoy your favourite snack onboard Aer Lingus flights for just €4 (no more dodgy aeroplane food for you, my friend!)
But the Tayto trend doesn’t stop there – in 2015, Tayto opened the door to Ireland’s first crisp sandwich café, a pop-up shop dedicated to Ireland’s favourite crisp. Taking things a step further, they launched Tayto Park, a theme park full of attractions devoted to the famous Spudman. The guys at Tayto HQ even released a Tayto chocolate bar for those who can’t resist the delectable combination of crisps and chocolate.
Sure look, this is it
The verbal version of a Facebook like, this phrase comes in handy when you have nothing else to contribute to a group chat, want to put a swift end to a dull conversation or just didn’t hear what the person said for the third time in a row and can’t bring yourself to ask again.
The dreaded aftermath of a great night out. Combined with a mouth as dry as Gandhi’s flip-flop and an almighty carb craving, it’s the distinctly Irish sense of shame that makes you swear you’ll never drink again. You’ll check your bank balance online with only one eye open, cry and return to the safety of your bed. You’ll want a hot chicken roll more than you’ve ever wanted a stable future, a good job and a loving family. You’ll get flashbacks to calling your ex, fighting with your best friend and emailing your boss to tell him exactly what you think of him. Some Irish people swear by ‘the cure’ – having another drink to take the edge off – but we say the damage is already done. Avoid social media, mentally curse the friend who’s already done her food shopping for the week and been to a Legs, Bums and Tums class and get some Lucozade and a dirty fry in you. Today’s a write-off. Just stick on some Friends re-runs and ride it out – it’ll all be over soon.
Grand stretch in the evenings
From February 1st onwards, this firm favourite will almost subconsciously seep into everyday conversations, flagging the onset of spring in Ireland. The Irish love to talk about the weather, you see – it’s a nice, reliable, uniting sort of topic. So when we’ve finished complaining about the rain (will it EVER stop at all, do you think!?) we like to play our next card – celebrating that extra half hour of daylight after the 6 o’clock news. This ‘grand stretch in the evenings’, you should know, is a mythical time of day when children play outside in the street, adults start taking the covers off the long-abandoned patio furniture, premature murmurs of potential barbecues start to circulate and clothes are able to stay out that bit longer on the washing line – there is, after all, grand drying in the weather. A failsafe conversation buffer, it can be used in all social situations requiring small talk, whether that’s with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, distant relatives or neighbours – all members of the general public, in fact. Couple this with a few affirmative nods and a further acknowledgement that it’s ‘fierce mild out’ and you’ll be totally assimilated in no time.
Source: The Daily Edge
The standard female reaction to any compliment about her outfit – so much so that most visitors to Ireland mistake this phrase for another way of saying “thanks very much.” The expression “thanks, Penneys” is immediately followed by the price of the product, which exact Penneys store it was purchased in, how long ago the purchase was made and what the stock levels were like. It’s only polite.
The word bogger or culchie is mostly reserved for describing someone from rural Ireland. But when used by a Dubliner, it’s used to describe anyone and everyone who lives outside The Pale (a historic term describing County Dublin and its commuter towns, which were under the control of the English government in the late Middle Ages).
You’re sucking diesel now
The equivalent to “now you’re talking!’’ to be sucking diesel in an Irish context has absolutely nothing to do knocking back oil – seriously, please don’t try this at home, kids. Simply put, “you’re sucking diesel” means you’re excelling or doing well at something. It’s a jubilant exclamation of progress, normally following what might have been a pretty dire situation.
To really speak English like the Irish, just try peppering your sentences with the word ‘like’. For true Irish immersion, the use of the word ‘like’ should be totally excessive and punctuate most sentences; for every intake of breath, a ‘like’ should duly follow. If you’re unsure how to wrap up a sentence, throw in a ‘like’ at the end for good measure. This is particularly the case in the the southern counties like Cork – Leesiders say ‘like’ a lot.
And that’s it! You’re ready to go for a few scoops and have a savage night with some gas chancers altogether. (Translation: you’re ready to go for a couple of drinks and have a great night with some hilarious characters.) Now that you’ve got a cúpla focal (couple of words), we know you can survive in the Emerald Isle… so let’s keep the adventure going! Go on a cambio in Ireland and share your own native language (or any other skill) in return for free accommodation – you’ll have a ball (great time)!
Do you love languages? Check out our posts on some strange and hilarious phrases in other languages:
About the Author: Emma is a 23-year-old copywriter at GoCambio and part-time shoe seller, so she’s always ready to think on her (size 5.5) feet. With a background in English, History, and Creative Advertising, some of Emma’s passions include fashion, travel, writing, film and social media. And tea. Black, no sugar.
COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Maria Jose Aguilar Hess