"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors."
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A Bit of the Blather...
The bottom line is that most Irish people would be offended by a simple affirmative "yes". It gives the impression that one isn't interested in continuing the conversation and a plain negative "no" would be considered very bad manners. The purpose of going into a shop, especially in rural Ireland, is as much to have a nice chat as it is to buy whatever one might need. It's a way of life in the country and very pleasant indeed - if you're not in a hurry to get to the next stop on your itinerary.
Another peculiarity of Irish conversation is the propensity for the people to pressure newcomers into revealing their life history. It would be falling down on the job if the village publicans and shopkeepers couldn't supply the locals with the biography of a new neighbor - or even a passing stranger. So, expect to be asked about your Irish connections, your family background, and "how long are you here?" What's meant by that last question isn't how long are you staying. It's to find out when you arrived!
For the most part, the Irish are so hospitable, they'll go out of their way to understand what you are saying long before you grasp what they said to you. So, no matter where you're from, take your ease - and enjoy how the Irish speak English. Here are just a few phrases to tuck into your travel guide:
A cup of tea in your hand: This is used when the person who is offering the hospitality understands that you don't have time to actually sit down or rest. What you should do is agree and partake of the hospitality offered - standing or sitting.
A soft day: If you've been to Ireland, you already know what this means. It isn't raining, but there's a dampness in the air; indeed, you can feel the moisture on your skin. We were in Galway City and the sun was shining. At the same time, we could see and feel misty droplets which seemed to be carried on the wind from the ocean.
Below: Somewhere north of the speaker, as in "I was below in the village today."
Blow-in: Someone who just moved into an area, but has no roots there.
Boreen: A small lane or roadway in the country.
Bowsie: Someone who is always getting into a fight.
Chancer: Someone who pushes their luck.
Chipper: A shop that sells fast food like hamburgers and french fries.
Culchie: A derogatory term for someone from the country who doesn't know city ways.
Dáil: The main lower house of the Irish parliament.
Eejit: A fool
Evening: Any time from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Fianna Fáil: Pronounced fina fall. One of the two main political parties in the Republic, dating back to the faction in 1921 that opposed the terms of the treaty with England.
Fine Gael Pronounced feen gale. The second major political party in the Republic, dating back to the faction that supported the terms of the 1921 treaty with England.
Fir The Irish word for man and used to indicate the men's restroom.
Gaelic football: A version of rugby which became "official" when the newly formed Gaelic Athletic Association drew up a set of rules in 1885.
Gaeltacht: Irish-speaking area.
Garda/Gardai: The police force of the Republic.
Giving out: Talking in a loud strident voice or telling someone off.
Good luck: Good bye
Grind: Private tuition.
Hippy: A term of insult applied to a foreigner who dresses strangely, has an unusual lifestyle, or leans toward left-wing politics.
Jackeen: A Dubliner.
Louser: A disreputable and mean person.
Loyalist: A Protestant in Northern Ireland committed to preserving the constitutional links with England and opposed to a united Ireland.
Mná: Irish for women and used to designate the Ladies' restroom.
Now, so: Right then, let's change the subject/what can I do for you/what's the next item of business/you have my attention. It can also be used in other contexts. For example, a shopkeeper giving you your purchases might use it to mean 'that's that bit of business taken care of." When you hear it in context, you'll understand what it means.
Over: England. It might be used in a sentence such as "Are you going over for your holidays this year?" A more formal version is "going over the water" and doesn't mean any other location accessible by sea, just England.
Press: Any kind of cupboard from an airing cupboard (hot press) to a wardobe or the kitchen drawers.
Scoroichting: Pronounced screerting, this is a fast-disappearing word and activity. It used to mean what men did when they all got together to gossip and discuss politics. The Irish word has been given the English -ing suffix.
Taig: A still very potent term of insult used in Northern Ireland by Protestants to denigrate Catholics.
The divil a much: I don't believe it or I hardly think that is likely to happen.
There's good eating in that: That's good to eat.
Till: While or so that. Used in sentences such as "lend me your paper till I read it" meaning may I borrow your newspaper to read.
Tinkers: Derogatory term to describe Travellers.
Townland: A townland used to be an area which shared common grazing and everyone within a particular townland had the use of the common land. Nowadays much of the old common grazing land has been enclosed or built on generations ago but in the countryside, with no street or road names, the townland is the only way of indicating one's address. The postman might have six families all living in the one townland and must know which family lives at which house. This can be even more confusing when several cousins all have the same name and live in the same townland!
Travellers: The politically correct term for the itinerant communities of people in Ireland.
Wee: Used in Northern Ireland in a variety of contexts to mean small.
Well wear: Not heard very often, but it's still in use. It is said to someone who has just bought something new such as a pair of shoes or even a car.
Will ya wisht: This means please be quiet or stop fussing.
Yerrah: Indeed. It is used as an exclamation as in "yerrah, that's not it at all!" "Arrah" is a variant.
Yoke: Anything technical, mechanical or modern. It roughly corresponds to the English "gizmo" or American "widget," but it has many more uses. A yoke can be anything from a screwdriver to a computer and is usually used with a gentle degree of irony. It is also an Irish way of thumbing the nose to all those jokes which portray the Irish as simple peasants.
What not to say when you're there
Begorrah Goodness me
B'jaysus Dear me, how shocking
Top o' the morning Hello
To be sure, to be sure That's right, I agree.
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
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March 4, 2011
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