As an Irishman, born and raised in Cavan, Ireland, celebrating Paddy's Day in America is always a real treat for me--apparently, this is one day a year I'm entitled to free kisses wherever I go!
But when in America, something I miss about celebrating back home is the charming, familiar way we Irish constantly and colourfully take the piss out of each other.
[Take the piss: To joke with; tease. Also used in the UK]
In Ireland, we grow up hearing a range of Englishes. We have BBC, Australian soap operas, and watch loads of American TV. But the opposite doesn't seem to be as true here in America, so you don't get much exposure to the way us Irish use English (except in The Boondock Saints, and in Brad Pitt's Irish gypsy performance in Snatch--which if you ask me was feckin bang on!)
[Feckin: Like fuckin', except softer, similar to freakin']
[Bang on: Correct, accurate]
To me, in comparison to Irish English, "standard" English is fierce boring. Here, I'll show you how to speak English like we do in the Emerald Isle. There'll be plenty of slagging (playful mocking), and takin' the piss out of you, dear reader, as us Irish are known to do. And maybe then you'll understand us better, or at least do a slightly better job when you try to mimic us.
[Fierce: An intensifying adjective. Negative adjectives are often used for emphasis. Examples include: She's awful gorgeous. You'll use up a serious amount of petrol to drive there!]
Why does "Irish English" sound the way it does?
First, there's no such thing as an Irish accent. Irish accents, like American accents, differ from region to region (think New York versus Alabama), but there are commonalities. Most stem from the fact that a few generations ago, Irish (Gaeilge), and not English, was the dominant language of the country. But now in Ireland, we speak both English and Irish--though fewer people have Irish than have English (we say that we "have a language," not that "we speak it.")
So listen and learn! And if you can't follow along, then you may be a plastic paddy.
[Plastic paddy: Anyone who says, "I'm Irish!" but pronounces Ireland as I.R.-land rather than OUR-lend.
Irish swearing ... but not swearing
As the good Irish boy that I am, I would never, ever swear in front of my mother.
But I'd merrily say "what a feckin mess!" for instance. Because it's not really swearing unless you say it a certain way, sort of like when you say "darn" or "shoot" in America. Those vowel sounds matter.
And because Ireland is Catholic country, I'd never take the Lord's name in vain, even if I'm not religious. Perish the thought! But saying Jayzus! is fair game. We also say arse instead of "ass," and "shit" becomes shite (rhymes with fight). For us, a "brown noser" becomes an arse licker.
When it's time to slag someone, you can express your exasperation at how much of a slow eejit they are by saying "Ah come on to fuck wilya!" Despite how it sounds, this is not an invitation for a ride. "Come on to fuck" can be yelled at a bad sports player or anyone not living up to their potential.
[Eejit: Idiot. You might say that this person doesn't know his arse from his elbow.]
[Ride: Refers to sex. If you mean transportation, be sure to ask for a lift, unless you want a shlap!]
A much more colourful way we curse at someone is to actually curse them.
May the cat eat him, and may the devil eat the cat! and
May he and all his offspring be awkward and unhandy!
Broder from anoder moder
When I first came to America, I was a Maths teacher (we pronounce the s), and my students just loved it when I'd discuss fractions.
Why? Mostly because I pronounced 33 and a third as "tirty tree and a tird."
In Ireland, we tend to avoid the th sound, and simply replace it with a t or d.
We also ch up our t's and j up our d's. So the second day of the week is Chooseday, a tube is a choob, and 'due' and 'jew' are pronounced the same. And if you are spelling words for us, instead of imitating a pirate when you get to the 18th letter (arrrr), just say it like "or" please.
We never say no! ... Or yes
Another influence from Irish is a lack of the words yes or no. In Irish, we answer by repeating the verb of the question. Can you swim? I can! Do you like tomato juice? I do! Are you coming? I amn't!
[I amn't: This is one I'm surprised other English speakers don't use! You say isn't, don't, aren't ... we also say amn't]
Talking to your "horse"
Horse box can mean a stocky bloke, but many people use it to refer to basically anyone, often shortening it down to "horse." Anyone who is a friend, neighbour, or standing nearby can be "horse." That's the way some of us say "hello" in our family now!
Story? or What's the story?
Here, "story" means "news," as in "what's going on?" or "what's up?" Usually used as a greeting. The more rural of us prefer "How's she cutting?"
How are ye keepin'? How are ye? How's the form? These are all alternatives to hello, which for us is a bit formal.
There ya go now. A phrase useful when handing someone a pint.
And when in pubs, shops, or otherwise requesting something from someone, it's important to say "give us" instead of "give me," even when you're by yourself. As in, "give us a pint and a packet of taytos, will ye?"
[Packet of taytos: bag of potato chips]
Instead of saying you're welcome, it's much more appropriate to respond with Not a bother! after you've passed over said taytos and pint.
And for when you haven't seen someone in a while, we say, Well, the dead arose and appeared to many! We also use this in our house whenever someone stumbles down the stairs in their pajamas at midday.
... And most of us have never heard of lucky charms.
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