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So here I am … again. I’ve just uprooted myself from New York, four months after uprooting myself from Japan. Now I’m in Ireland. Another new place, another new life … another new language? Don’t they speak English here? Ah, they do, sure. Ireland’s native language – Irish – was eclipsed by English in the 19th century due to the economic pressures of the Famine; it’s spoken mainly as a second language today. While Irish-English uses much British-English vocabulary – cookie = biscuit, trash = rubbish, etc. – its colorful twists can leave an American gal feeling daft. For ye, a mini Irish-English survival guide:

Greetings

Expecting a hearty “top o’ the mornin’” ? You’d be wrong there, b’hoy. The phrase might be popular in Hollywood, but nobody actually says it in Ireland. Instead, you’ll hear:

American-English: How are you?
Irish-English: How’s the form?

American-English: What’s up?
Irish-English: What’s the craic?

Irish-English often incorporates Irish words or grammar. Craic – pronounced “crack” – is an Irish word loosely translated as “liveliness.”

Common Courtesy

I’ve noticed a vein of cynicism running through Irish society. Maybe that’s why I get sniggers when I’m overexcited by Sunday roast or when I wish someone a nice day. Take it down a notch and you’ll be grand.

After agreeable transactions:

American-English: Awesome; thanks, dude!
Irish-English: Grand. Cheers.

After pleasant encounters:

American-English: Have a nice day!
Irish-English: Good luck to ya.

But upon entering a home:


American-English: Can I get you anything? No? Okay.
Irish-English: Would you like some tea? Go on, have a cup. Have a cup now. Have some tea. Go on, sure.

… just say, “I will.”

Time

American-English: The soccer game’s a week from Monday, at eleven-thirty.
Irish-English: The football match is on Monday week, at half-eleven.

Grammar

You mightn’t think that within dialects, there’d be grammatical differences. And yet ….

Just after:

This signifies having finished doing something; a direct translation from Irish.

American-English: It’s six-thirty and Mary’s just gotten home from work.
Irish-English: It’s half-six and Mary’s just after getting home from work.

Ye:

Commonly confused with the Olde English “ye” or a Pirate’s “you (singular),” the Irish use “ye” as the plural form of “you.” Condolences to anyone who, like me, thought their Irish friend was complimenting them when, in fact, he was complimenting every girl in the room.

American-English: You’re being brats. No more sugar for you guys!
Irish-English: Cheek! Ye won’t be getting any more sweets now.

Idioms

To Give Out:

Irish-English: My Irish teacher gave out to me for failing my test.

Imagine my horror when I overheard my boyfriend tell his mum that I’d been giving out to him. Unlike the American version of this phrase, the Irish-English is innocent, translated as “scolding.”

Yer Man/Yer One:

I thought my boyfriend was accusing me of something until I realized that:

Irish-English: I saw yer man at the cafe.

means:

American-English: I saw that guy at the cafe.

Phew.

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After three weeks,  I’m less and less surprised by things I hear. The cost of living in the EU? That’s another story, like.

Lived in Ireland? Any contributions to the Travel Info are welcome. Cheers!

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5 Comments

  1. nicoNo Gravatar
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    good stuff!

  2. Kevin RookwoodNo Gravatar
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Excellent information, as always! Your insights are useful, interesting and fun! I look forward to your future posts from Ireland!

  3. Paul KatzNo Gravatar
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Practical and fun to read. A potent duo. Keep up the culture clash!

  4. ibleesNo Gravatar
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    You forgot to mention the most important bit:

    American-English: Cani help you? (in a shop)
    American-English: What would you like to drink? (in a pub/bar)
    Irish-English: You ok there?

  5. Benny the Irish polyglotNo Gravatar
    Posted November 2, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Funny translations :P
    The way we speak like that is because of the Irish Gaelic influence. to “give out” in the sense of complaining or scolding is a direct translation of “tabhair amach”
    Note that in your example “Mary’s just after getting home from work.”, the just is not necessary. Saying “Mary’s after getting home from work.” is more likely. “After” implies “having just”, once again from the Irish “(tá mé) tar éis…” the “apostrophe s” is TO BE not TO HAVE (like in all other English), so
    I’m after finding a euro = I’ve just found a euro
    Here is a great detailed list of Irish differences!

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