As the Irish say it…

While I am home for the holidays, people have, of course, had a lot of questions about life in Dublin.  Does it really rain all the time? (No, not ALL the time.)  Is the Guinness really better over there? (Yeah, pretty much.)  Do you go to the pub every night? (No, not EVERY night.)  What’s the food like? (Not all that different from America.  More curry, less mexican.)  Can you understand their accents?

That last question is an interesting one.  For the most part, I don’t have too hard a time understanding the Irish accent, though that can vary wildly from person to person.  And yes, they do speak English.  But it’s amazing how different the same language can be.

One of the things that has made my transition to Dublin a bit easier is the fact that English is Ireland’s predominantly spoken language.  Had I moved to France or Italy, I can imagine how much more isolated I would have felt, not being fluent in their language.  And I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be an expat in Japan or China, where even the alphabet is completely different.

But even though we supposedly speak the same language, some things do still get “lost in translation.”  Here are some of my favorite words that the Irish use:

Cheers – While we Americans use this word as a toast when clinking glasses, in Ireland it’s often used in place of “thank you.”

Grand – The Irish use this word the way I might use “okay” or “fine.”  “It’s grand” or “It’ll be grand” or just plain “grand” can be heard several times a day in my office.  I kind of love this and have started saying it myself.

Jumper – This is the Irish word for sweater.  Neither word makes all that much sense when you think about.  But a sweater sounds like something you sweat in, while a jumper sounds like something you jump in.  Which would you rather do?  This one goes to the Irish, I think.

Trainer – The Irish call sneakers trainers.  Makes more sense to me since one could actually train for something in them.  I suppose one could also sneak around in them, but again, this one goes to the Irish.

Touch wood – Americans say “knock on wood” for good luck.  The Irish say “touch wood.”  I’m sorry, I can’t help it but “touch wood” sounds vaguely sexual to me.

Hoover – The general catch-all word for vacuum cleaner.  Kind of like “kleenex” or “scotch tape.”

Fekkin’ – A more polite substitue for the actual f-bomb.  Quite possibly the best word ever.

I’m sure this list will grow as my time in Ireland does.  If you have any to add, please feel free to do so in the comments!


16 thoughts on “As the Irish say it…

  1. Craic. Pronounced “crack.” Ok, this actually is Irish (or as Americans would say Gaelic) so not totally sure it fits with this list – but it is a wonderful catchall term for fun, entertainment, gossip. Example: it’s Friday night; you are unsure what to do; you call a friend and say, “where’s the craic?” Sadly, there is no equivalent word in English. It should come as no surprise that the Irish were the ones to invent it.

      • Also, watch out for “pants.” It usually means “underpants” over there. If you mean American pants, go with “trousers.” That way you can be sure that everyone stays properly clothed. Unless you don’t want them to…

  2. Fag is a cigarette
    Lovely is used way to much over there
    To have a session is to have a few drinks …..people might say ye had a grand session last night

  3. BTW Shannon if you need any information or advice in relation to life here, then please don’t hesitate to mail me. I was a stranger in the the United States once and was helped at almost every step by wonderful New Yorkers.

    • thank you so much. I will definitely take you up on your offer. This has been quite an adjustment for me. When did you live in NY? Were you there for work or school? I used to work in NYC and I am originally from Buffalo – that’s where I was for Christmas. New Yorkers get a bad rap for being rude often, I’m glad you had nice experiences.

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