Case in point: What’s the craic? The Irish’s routine greeting. You’ll hear it in pubs, on street corners, over tea at work. I’m convinced you would even hear it in crèches (aka daycares) so that children learn it as part of their essential Irish upbringing (but I didn’t have time to research this officially). Unfortunately, the word is pronounced just like the English word “crack”, giving rise to potential awkward misunderstandings for tourists, especially those unaccustomed to this Irish turn of phrase.
It is used so frequently, I have secretly wondered if tourists sometimes think the country is teeming with drug addicts, searching high and low in every pub and meeting place for a bit of “craic”. Personally, I would love to use the word craic but when sliding off my lips, it comes across as a nasty violation of linguistics instead of hip greeting. Regrettably, I had to try it once to learn that lesson the hard way.
Over the past few months, I’ve captured some of my favourite Irish expressions that will certainly confuse and are guaranteed to amuse but they’ll help any foreigner settle in.
That’s a reasonable start to the quintessential slang but then you also have the differences in vocabulary... you know things of the boot vs trunk, jumper vs sweatshirt, crisp vs chips variety. One memorable misstep of the last few months involved an ill-fated use of the word pants. You see, I was explaining over a casual breakfast orange juice that I don’t use a scale but instead use the do-my-pants-fit? test to assess weight loss/gain. Kayla, my friend’s charming and precocious daughter, gawked at me. Whoops, wrong continent! The poor girl was imagining I am using my underwear as a reasonable gauge of weight fluctuation. Just imagine if I’d found reason to toss in the North American phrase fancy-pants. Having lived in London, I should know better but trousers just doesn’t roll off my tongue naturally. But I mean seriously... unless they have pleats and cuffs the word “trousers” has no place in a modern woman’s vocab.
And then you add the Irish accent. While the Irish accent is one of the most popular around the world (and sexiest according to some), many of us find ourselves wondering what are they actually saying. Sometimes I had no idea what was being said which left me resorting to a combination of polite head nodding or covert lip reading to follow along. Heaven forbid I missed a single word, was talking on the phone or stepped into a conversation mid-stream, it all could be lost.
Speaking of lost, I’m not even going to touch Irish names. As a rule, you’ll never guess the pronunciation by looking at the letters. Names like Sorcha, Blaithin, Cillian, Aoife made me so excited to see names like Sarah, Conor, and James so I didn’t have to foolishly butcher their beautiful names like a Starbucks barista!
Thankfully, there is a lot that does translate over the common language of beer so if in doubt, just grab a Guinness!
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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