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!
6 responses to “Lost in Translation”
An hilarious romp through linguistic minefields is never amiss! Loved this. It’s been FAR too many years since I was privileged to set foot so briefly on Irish soil and to hear the lilt of words so sadly neglected, even unknown, beyond its emerald borders. This confirms it.
If you want *real* irony, I can tell you that during that 30-yrs-ago wander in Europe, my sister and I frequently got asked if we were from three places (rarely, thank God, America, which was deservedly at a then all-time low in everyone’s esteem): Canada, Cornwall, and Ireland. I guessed at the time that it was because of the way we pronounced our Rs, and that we didn’t sound like we were from NY, Boston or the Deep South, kind of the stereotypical US accents to foreigners. Or maybe because we didn’t glibly endorse every idiotic thing about our homeland!!! In any event, I always secretly hoped that the Irish question was just a hint that my Viking ancestors (surely the politest of them) might have been visitors to Eire at some point, or vice versa. That would make us cousins, no? 😉
How amazing it that? I can understand the Canadian query, I have often assumed that someone from Canada was from the USA and vice versa as my European ear cannot hear the difference between the two accents. Perhaps we are long lost cousins even if at a great remove, as you say your Viking ancestors may have been visitors to this isle. I would add a smiley face to match yours but I am so tech challenged that I cannot discover how to insert one on the blog.
Oh… if you just place a colon (typewriter colon, to be clear begorrarh (ha, probably used that one wrong) followed by a half parentheses, you will have a happy face:) or a winky one if you use semi-colon 😉
Loved your blog today, very helpful for a lass who’s grandpa was from Ireland… sadly I’ve not been there yet.
I love the poster idea… why aren’t they being sold everywhere!!!
Thank you so much for the heads up on how to insert a smiley face. 🙂 – I will wait to see when I press the publish button for this comment if my colon/parentheses magically converts to a yellow smiley face. Ah, so your grandpa was from Ireland, I hope he had happy memories of this isle to pass on to his grandchildren. I love the poster idea too, I am not sure why they aren’t widely available. I have only seen them in two shops here so it could be centuries before he reaches his 42 billion target. 😉
UPDATE: Hurray it works, thanks again.
Thank you for the words. I love learning new ones. My ancestors on my father’s side were from Ireland (my maiden name is Irish). I hope there will be more of this.
You are welcome (or should I say ‘not a bother’ which is the Hiberno-English equivalent of no problem or no worries). I will be driving across Ireland tomorrow form the east to the west coast, I wonder will I pass anywhere near to the place your ancestors are from. I will do another post like this in a few months time.