IRE 101: How to Talk Like a Paddy

Since I’ve been here, my American family and friends have mentioned a few times that I’ve picked up a brogue. Ha! I think that’s funny since I’m firstly not trying to sound Irish and also because I’m not great at replicating accents (one exception being the classic Long Island accent which, thanks to the Koopman side of the family, I could do in my sleep!).

It occurred to me then that, in addition to a few different vocal intonations, I must be using a lot of Irish phrases, leaving the ol’ Yanks scratching their heads as to my meaning! So now, only on this site, for the first time ever, with only three payments of $19.95, in 12 easy steps you too can learn how to speak true Paddywhackery!* Just don’t ask me to teach you any real Irish, or you’ll be out of luck and I’ll be out of a job! Ha ha ha!!!

1. Maybe you thought this was a joke – I always did – but we really do say “me” in place of “my.” We also refer to friends or small groups (usually male, but can go either way) as “lads.”
     Example: “Lads, will ya stop messin and give us me phone?”

2. Curse. A lot. And while the frequency of the f-word and c-word is shocking, try not to get too offended at the use of the old JC – most Irish folk will tell you “Jaysus” is Jesus’ Irish brother, so it’s OK.  Also popular are the half-swears – such as “arse,” “feck” and “shite.”
     Examples: Do you really need examples? 🙂

3. When referring to a man or woman, don’t say he/she or her/him. Say “your man” or “your wan” (pronounced “one”).
     Example: “Your wan over there told me the craic. She said your man went mental and robbed the place.”

4. When teasing someone, it is common to use the terms “taking the piss” or “taking the mickey.” Be careful using this one – things can go very wrong if you simply rearrange the word order (believe me, I speak from experience).
     Example: Your man wasn’t serious – he was just taking the piss to make me look an eejit.”
      Common retort when someone is taking the piss: “Axe me hole!” (don’t ask me what this means, by the way…I’ve no clue)

5. Replace the overused word “thing” in the American vocabulary with the equally overused word “yoke.”
     Example: “Give us that yoke over there.” 

6. These are particularly indigenous to County Cork – end your sentences with “so” or “like.”
    Example: “Ah sure, I’ll bring it over to you so.”

7. Throw the phrase “you know yourself ” randomly into sentences to show people your empathy.
    Example: “I can’t believe the weather. Ah but sure you know yourself like.”

8. Using the word “Awesome” will pinpoint you as an American quicker than the a buggy pileup at Penny’s on a Saturday. Instead, use words like “Brilliant!” or “Class!” to express your jubilation.
     Example: “That movie last night was pure class!” “Ah Mary, that’s brilliant news!”

9. Even though there is a lot of taking the Lord’s name in vain, many people will frequently use phrases like “please God” and “thank God and His Holy Mother.” The trick is to run all the words together.
     Example: “The match tomorrow’s to be a good one, pleasegod!” “Well, it was a gorgeous summer, thankgodandhisholymother!”

10. Often questions seem to be phrased with the words in a different order than you’d hear in the States. 
       Example:  “Have you any scones today? Have you any butter to put on them?”  Or “Awe, is this your baby? What age is she?”

11. In case there were words above that you did not understand, here’s a quick brush-up on vocabulary.
        Yank – American      
        Eejit – Idiot
        Mental – Crazy
        Gorgeous – word most often used for cute babies and scrumptious food.
        The Craic – news, gossip, good times
        Pennys – clothes and housewares appealing to the masses… somewhere between Wal-Mart and Target quality stuff

12.  Though it makes no grammatical sense whatsoever, often you’ll hear people putting the word “as” into sentences when describing someone.
         Example: “Oh look at her, she’s as wise!” or “Thanks very much, you’re as good.”

BONUS:  It’s not all bad. 🙂 The Irish begrudgery lends itself to guilt which lends itself to daily pleasantries.
       Example: “Howerya?”
                            “Grand, thanks, notabodda.”
       Translation: “Hi, how are you?”
                                  “Fine, thanks, not a bother.”

*This is only a bit of a piss-take and not a real language course. No money will be forcibly taken or otherwise for reading along and/or practicing the above words and phrases. 🙂


18 thoughts on “IRE 101: How to Talk Like a Paddy

  1. There’s always “You’re jokin’ me.”

    What about that little breath taken before speaking – the one that kind of indicates mild surprise at what was just said? ” She said that? You’re jokin’ me.”

    My ex became known as Uncle Yar in my family because of his famous statement “Either y’ar or y’arnt.”

    Great post!

  2. maryannk

    Ah Julie, good one! The infamous intake of breath! When I first met my husband, I thought he had a breathing problem, until I met his family and heard everyone do it! Now even I do it, too. 🙂

  3. Irish Mason

    I LOVE THIS! Hilarious! I remember when we lived in England and were constantly getting the language wrong or making wild, crazy, embarassing mistakes. This is soooo much better than those little English glitches in language! I cried laughing! GREAT post – BRILLIANT! PURE CLASS! 😉

  4. as you know yourself, your (I should say yer) point number ten comes from the real Irish language, which does just that — interesting that people who don’t speak any Irish at all still have patterns of speech from it, aye? up in Donegal and Derry, we’re after saying aye instead of the Corkman’s (or woman’s) like or so.

    two other things to add to your funny and useful story — I’m from the American south, and it still takes me aback now and then to be called a yank, but that’ll happen to every American. also, there are many regional accents and turns of phrase in different parts of the country. good to listen closely.

  5. I think I, for one, need an example of what a mess-up of No. 4 would be. I couldn’t think of a way to rearrange the phrases! and … i have to have to have to know … what’s bad about it if you do?

  6. maryannk

    Yes, being called a Yank was hard for me, too, even though I’m not from the North or South persay, but the Wild West! 🙂

    Chris, it’s not exactly a rearrangement… but more taking liberties with the phrase. For instance, when joking with Frank early in our courtship, I said to him, “Ah, I’m just pissing on you!” Which means exactly what it says. I can only imagine his face aghast on the other end of the phone and after a few silent seconds, he told me never to use the phrase again, and especially not in pubs. 🙂

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  10. Your Mom's Friend, Pam

    Maryann … your “Paddy Post” is brilliant! Laughed ’til I cried. Brings back fond memories of my Great-Aunts and Great-Uncles in Butte, Montana, who, even though they were the American-born children of Irish immigrants from County Cork, still turned a phrase with an Irish brogue. Your post brought their voices back clearly to me … so. And my own father peppers every sentence with a “Jaysus” or two, for emphasis.

  11. Michael Fogarty

    Axe me hole = Ask my hole, as in my nether regions.

    You’ll find more different things in different places in the country. For example I’m a dubliner myself and we tend to put the word but at the end of sentences instead of the beginning.
    eg. Why didnt ye go out today?

    I would have, it’s raining but.

    Also I don’t know If you’ve come across it yet but we have a tense all our own too, the present continual. eg. I do be up that way a fair bit.

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  15. Dave in NC

    These are “Brilliant” (as opposed to “Awesome!”). In the South, we still here some of these uses in everyday language, particularly among our very country family members who have deep southern roots. The use of some of these phrases were no doubt passed down from our Celtic ancestors from years gone by. And, for the benefit of our blessed Irish and Scottish friends, many a southerner still refused to be answer to “Yanks”, no matter who is making that call.

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