A beginner’s guide to ructions, dotes, yokes, fierce eejits and mé féiners
“Give me the yoke,” I asked my American friend Molly. Her look seemed to say: which yolk? Which actual egg? I explained – obviously – that when the Irish use the word “yoke” out of context, we mean “thing”. It was a reminder that we speak two very different versions of English. And it started the Little Book of the Irish.
The Little Book of Irishisms is for anyone who wants to understand the Irish – an ambitious goal, but as we say, God loves a Trier. It’s also for people who want to sound Irish, even just for St. Patrick’s Day. Ambitious too. But God still loves a Trier.
My top 20 Irishisms
1. Bockety Does such a better job than being shaky or unsafe. “No wonder this table is stubborn. Sure, isn’t a leg shorter? “You can hear the discontinuity in the word. Bockety comes from Bacach, the Irish for lame.
2. Dowry A point is much more than a treasure. “Isn’t Una the biggest point?” is the ultimate compliment – especially if your name is Una. It’s hard to find a word that encapsulates everything that “dote” does. It implies liking, admiration, and affection in just four letters. We would never call anyone a point if we didn’t mean it.
3. Banjaxed not only is it broken, it is irreparable. There’s no going back from Banjaxed. Unless a person is banjaxed. If so, there is a good chance they will recover from their hangover or absolute exhaustion. It just might not feel that way at this point.
4. Ructions gets my vote on “riot”, “argumentative outburst” or “loud disturbance”. Not only does it sound the way it is described, it originated from Ireland’s 1798 uprising.
5. Holy show While no one wants to be told that they are doing a “sacred show” of themselves, it is slightly better than being told that they are an embarrassing embarrassment. At least it’s funny. Or for me it is. I thought the “holy show” was going to die out. My millennial daughter assures me that there is a comeback.
6. Care If there is a better way to reduce “freaking out and getting stuck” to a descriptive, onomatopoeic word, I’d love to hear it.
7. Make a bag out of it Our way of telling someone they are failing spectacularly takes the edge off. A little bit.
8. Performances “The ideas about it!” Or simply: “Introductions!” In Ireland, one of the worst things you could have is an idea of yourself. Chances are someone feels an obligation to “take you down a pen or two” so you don’t get a “swollen head”.
9. Crazy If there was one word that sums up us as a people, it could well be “crazy”. The fact that we are so ubiquitously using it to mean either news or fun shows how important both are to us. We love our madness. There is some debate about spelling. “Craic”, it seems, was originally spelled “Crack”. I know which version I like. Note for foreigners: Craic never means drugs.
10. Mortaller This my grandma’s darling means “mortal sin”. She used it for something slightly offensive. I love how one word can bring a person back.
11th Smithereens If something is torn to pieces, it is unlikely to survive. Smithereens is derived from the Irish word “smidiríní”, which means “little pieces”.
12. Segotia “Ah, I auld segotia.” Although often referred to as the tongue in the cheek, there is real affection in this way of calling someone a “buddy.”
13. Pass-Noteworthy Judging someone verbally is a dangerous area, given the irony of making a remark about someone else’s remarkableness.
14. Disapproval What other nation reduces the concept of annoying someone’s success to one word? Resentment is a particularly Irish trait, and while I’m not a fan, I love the word itself. I also love our innate fear of being sycophantic.
15. Myself This term for someone who is only traveling for himself comes from the Irish term “mé féin” and means “myself”. A mé féiner is not something you want to be in Ireland. We especially frown at those who don’t “stand around” in a pub.
16. Yoke Could that little word for “thing” create more confusion for non-Irish people? We say it without thinking – often that’s the point – we couldn’t bother to come up with the name of a word, so we just use “yoke”. Calling someone a “crazy yoke” is the ultimate compliment.
17. Yerra “Yerra, go ahead, so.” There is no need for “yerra” at the beginning of a sentence, especially since it means absolutely nothing. But, yerra, why don’t you toss it in anyway?
18. Make a line “Paddy lines up with Mary.” This alternative for “dating” makes me nostalgic for times when it was more used. When Paddy and Mary made a strong line, things got serious.
19. Your husband / wife If we don’t know or can’t remember a person’s name, this is our go-to stop. For obvious reasons, it’s another recipe for confusion.
20. Spend. In Ireland this means complaining (or blaming) rather than spreading, e.g. B. “He never stops talking about the weather.” It comes from the Irish: “Tabhair Amach” – to give. Like all of the above words, I love it because it’s just so typically Irish.
In addition to our sayings, The Little Book of Irishisms contains tricks for making sentences iridescent, such as: B. “violently” before a noun and “overall” after it, e.g. B. “Overall, he’s a fierce eejit”. It describes things that people think we say, but we never really do it. “May the road rise with you,” it says only in Irish, never in English. In the book you will find our many words for rain, drunk and mother. And much more.
The Little Book of the Irish: Know the Irish by Our Words, by Aimee Alexander, is out now. You can find a free sample here. Aimee Alexander is the pen name of Irish author Denise Deegan.