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Irish Slang: So Much More Than 'Top of the Morning to Ye'

Some people say that although the Irish speak English, it is not an English that is recognisable to the rest of the world. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, Ireland is home to a vibrant and diverse lexicon that is unique to their island.

Irish Road Signs

For tourists, the ultimate goal is to experience a culture and history different to their own and to develop an appreciation of that difference. Language is key to cultural differences, being the means through which a community understands itself and communicates with the rest of the world.

To help begin that process of understanding the Irish culture and the way they use the English language, here is a list of some of the slang words used by the Irish in certain contexts:

The Greeting

Long gone are the days when 'top of the morning to ye!' was the common phrase of the Irish. Much like Americans rarely say, 'howdy, partner!' and English people rarely yell, 'ello, chap!', Irish people, too, are living in the 21st century. In the south-east, it is common to hear, "well, boy" and in the north, you might hear, 'bout ye'. If visiting Dublin, 'howyiz' could be shouted at you.

The Pub

If you find yourself in the pub, a useful word could be 'glass' (a half pint). Perhaps you would find a bunch of people laughing and messing about. If one looked particularly mischievous, he or she could be said to be 'acting the maggot'. And look out for someone 'codding ya' - joking around with you if you have done something a bit silly.

The Streets of Dublin

The streets of Dublin are filled with people, women (bettys and young wans), children (chisilers) and men (fellas). You might want to go the An Lar (city centre) or the Croker (Croke park). If you are lucky, you might be able to have a conversation with a Dub (Dubliner), and they could give you directions to the tourist sites, assuming that they wouldn't begin trick acting (pulling your leg).

Giant's Causeway

Unfortunately, the English courses London has to offer won't be much use to you if you want to learn to speak like the Irish. An English school London is home to may help you understand those that speak the Queen's English, but you'll have to visit Ireland to get a taste of the Irish version of the language. It is best to do some internet research about slang in Ireland or to check out travel books such as Lonely Planet or Time Out. Good luck and may the road rise to meet you!

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