ARE YA well? ‘Cos you’re lookin’ well!
We Irish certainly have a way with words. As an ancient nation, we’ve only started speaking the English language relatively recently, and we’ve definitely put our own twist on it. Just think of the exasperated phrase “I’m not able”, which became “I’m nable” which then turned into “I’m nable Mabel”. We’re a creative bunch.
So below are a few select Irish phrases that nobody on the island of Ireland would bat an eyelid to, but which can—and will—confuse the shite out of anyone who hasn’t been raised on them.
9. ACTING THE MAGGOT
“Don’t be acting the maggot now,” your Da would say.
What does he mean? “Don’t pupate”, “Don’t shed your skin and develop into a fly”, “Don’t feed on rotting organic material such as animal carcasses”?
No. He means stop messing around. Obviously.
A simple one—“Whisht” basically means goway and leave me alone/ shut up/ you’ve no clue what you’re talking about/ I don’t want to listen to you anymore. Usually said in an aggressive tone when someone is at the end of their tether.
7. PIGS MANAC AND CAULIFLOWER
Picture this: You’ve had a long day of acting the maggot at school, you come home absolutely shtarvin’, you ask your Mammy what’s for dinner but she’s nable for your questions and so she tells you “Pig’s manac and cauliflower”.
What on Earth does that mean?? You’re pretty sure manac is a mammy’s word for shite, but you don’t want to eat pig’s shite and you definitely don’t want to eat cauliflower.
Later at the dinner table you realise she just didn’t want you bothering her, and she’s actually made bacon and cabbage.
Similar to acting the maggot, if a sympathetic person says “Ah, you cratur”, they’re not saying “You are a round-shaped cavity produced by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity, or explosion”, they’re just saying “Poor you”-- usually sarcastically.
5. NOW WE’RE SUCKIN’ DIESEL
Sure, we could just say “That’s an improvement” (Yawn), but instead this Irish saying has emerged and is prevalent in all sectors of Irish culture—if you’ve worked hard and gotten a good result in an exam, your teacher might tell you “Your essay on this subject was terrible, but now we’re suckin’ diesel!”
4. I WILL I’D SAY
Read: I absolutely will not be doing that.
Can also be “I will yeah” or “Oh I will”—it’s all in the tone.
If you hear a barrage of swear words coming from an Irish person and ask them what’s wrong, it’s likely they’ll reply “The [email protected]%&*! thing is banjaxed!”
Banjaxed means broken, probably beyond repair, and is a very satisfying word to shout in rage when you’re trying to fix it.
Yoke is used interchangeably with “Thing” so if it seems like an Irish person is asking you for an egg with no context, you can assume they mean…well…it could be anything else. Example:
“Where’s the yoke?”
“The yoke for the TV… the TV yoke,”
“Yeah, that yoke,”
Even more confusing is the fact that in some places in Ireland, Yoke is the street name for a certain type of drug, which brings us to the old reliable…
1. THE CRAIC
Pronounced “Crack”, the phrase “Any craic?” means something completely different everywhere else, but rest assured we’re not asking you if you have any drugs.
Craic is an abstract idea rather than an actual thing, and we use it in every context—every decision can be based on doing it “for the craic”, something fun is “mad craic” and a boring person will always be described as “shite craic” or even “anti-craic”—the worst insult an Irish person can receive.