A beginner’s guide to ructions, dotes, yokes, fierce eejits and mé féiners
“Give me the yoke,” I asked my American friend Molly. Her gaze seemed to say: What yolk? What real egg? I explained – obviously – that when the Irish use the word “yoke” out of context, we mean simply “thing”. There was a reminder that we speak two very different versions of English. And the Little Book of Irishness began.
The Little Book of Irish is for anyone who wants to understand the Irish – an ambitious goal, but, as we say, God loves a trier. It is also for people who want to hear Irish even for St. Patrick’s Day. Also ambitious. But God still loves a trier.
My top 20 Irish
1. Bockety does such a better job than unstable or unstable. “It is not surprising that the pumpkin on the table. surely not a foot shorter? “You can hear the instability in the word. Bockety comes from bacach, the Irish for lame.
2. Dowry A dot is much more than a sweet. “Isn’t Una the highest price?” is the ultimate compliment – especially if your name is Una. It is difficult to find a word that incorporates everything that “dote” does. It implies love, admiration and affection in just four letters. We would never give someone a price if we did not mean it.
3. Baniaxent it is not just broken, it is beyond repair. There is no return from banjaxed. Unless a person is banned. In this case, there is a good chance that they will recover from the dismissal or complete exhaustion. You may not feel that way at that moment.
4. RuctionIt gets my vote for “upset”, “quarrel outburst” or “noisy disorder”. Not only does it sound like what he describes, it came from the Irish uprising of 1798.
5. Sacred representation Although no one wants to say that they are doing a “sacred show” of themselves, it is marginally better than saying that it is an embarrassment. At least it’s funny. Or for me it is. I thought the “sacred show” was over. My Millennial daughter assures me she’s making a comeback.
6. Promotion If there is a better way to reduce “fuss in a disturbing way and get nowhere” to a descriptive, oncotic word I would love to hear it.
7. Making bags out of it Our way of telling someone that they fail spectacularly goes beyond the advantage. A little bit.
8. Concepts “The concepts for this!” Or simply: “Concepts!” In Ireland, one of the worst things you can do is have concepts about yourself. Chances are, someone will feel it is their duty to “put you under a peg or two” so you do not have a “swollen head”.
9. Kraiki If there was one word to summarize us as a people, it could very well be “kraic”. The fact that we use it so much everywhere to mean either news or entertainment highlights how important both are to us. We love our craic. There is some discussion about spelling. “Craic”, it seems, was originally written as “crack”. I know which version I like. Note for non-nationals: crime never means drugs.
10. Mortaller This grandmother’s favorite means “deadly sin.” He used it for something slightly offensive. I like how a word can bring back a person.
11. Smithereens If something is crushed into chisels, it is unlikely to survive. Smithereens comes from the Irish word “smidiríní” which means small pieces.
12. Segotia “Ah, I’m segotia.” Although it is often said tongue to cheek, there is real love in this way to call someone “Palace”.
13. Remarkable passage To be considered orally critical is a dangerous ground given the irony of making a remark about someone else’s passing-remarkable.
14. Industry What other nation reduces in a nutshell the notion of dissatisfaction with its success? Begrudgery is a very Irish feature and, while I’m not a fan, I like the word itself. I also like our innate fear of being slandered.
15. Me This term for someone who is only for himself comes from the Irish term, “mé féin”, which means “I”. Mé féiner is not something you want to be in Ireland. We participate especially in those who do not “stop” in a pub.
16. Libra Could this little word about “thing” confuse non-Irish people more? We say it without thinking – often this is the point – we could not bother trying to find the name of a word, so we just use the “yoke”. Calling someone a “crazy yoke” is the ultimate compliment.
17. Gera “Yerra, so keep going.” There is no need for “yerra” at the beginning of a sentence, especially since it means absolutely nothing. But, yes, why not throw it away anyway?
18. Making a line “Paddy makes a line with Maria.” This alternative to the “date” makes me miss the times that passed when it was used more. If Paddy and Maria made a strong line, things would get serious.
19. Your husband / wife When we do not know – or can not bother to think – someone’s name, it’s ours. For obvious reasons, it’s another recipe for confusion.
20. Giving. In Ireland, this is much more likely to mean protest (or reprimand) than the distribution of e.g. “He never stops giving weather information.” It comes from the Irish: “tabhair amach” – to get them out. Like all the above words, I like it because it is typically Irish.
In addition to our words, the Little Book of Irishness includes tricks for Irishizing sentences, such as placing “wild” in front of a noun and “completely” after it e.g. “He’s a wild eejit, completely.” It describes things that people think we say, but never do. “The road can go up with you”, is something that is said only in Irish, never in English. In the book you will find our many words about rain, drunk and mother. And many more.
The Little Book of the Irish: Meet the Irish through Our Words, by Aimee Alexander, is now out. A free sample is available here. Aimee Alexander is the name of Irish author Denise Deegan.