George Bernard Shaw described America and England as two countries separated by a common language. Perhaps because he was Irish he didn’t delve into the differences between English as spoken in Ireland and English as spoken in the rest of the Anglophone world. I was reminded of one of the differences when I saw the ‘KEEP GOING SURE IT’S GRAND’ poster in the Irish Design Shop before Christmas. Here in Ireland we pepper our everyday conservation with words or phrases that are probably incomprehensible to visitors to these shores. Here’s a small selection.
Grand is (in my opinion) the most used Hiberno-English word. It means fine or ok. So in answer to the query ‘How are you’?: you can reply ‘Grand’. As with the English fine you are expected to say grand even if you don’t feel grand and to refrain from boring to death whoever asked the question with a lengthy list of your woes.
Craic is pronounced crack. There is no need to be fearful if you are invited out for a good night’s craic as you will not be visiting dens of inequity. Craic means fun or enjoyment. Thus a party could be described as great craic. Craic is also used to ask what’s up or to enquire what news you have, as in ‘What’s the craic?’
Shower in Hiberno-English means something other that a fall of rain, hail or snow. It is always applied to a group of people, usually prefaced by that and often qualified with another word. I cannot think of an English word that would convey the exact meaning of shower as used in Hiberno-English. So instead here’s an example of how it’s used; ‘That shower of ——- ‘ (insert expletive of your choice). It is never used in a complimentary way so you would not say that shower of saints unless of course you dabble in irony.
Begorrarh is that the time I had better go. Talk to you soon.
Note: graphic designer Fergus O’Neill created the ‘KEEP GOING SURE IT’S GRAND’ poster to *save Ireland* he has pledged one euro from every sale to the state. So, according to Fergus, if 42 billion people buy one that would half our banking crisis debt!