When I was writing Angel of Eventide, in which the main protagonist is Irish, I used words and sayings I heard during my visits to County Clare and Limerick. Below are some of my favorites.
St. Pat’s Bookmark
As colorful as Irish curses can be, so Irish blessings can be the most eloquent and heartfelt. I’d like you to have this bookmark for St. Patrick’s Day, which includes a blessing from one of my favorite books: Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. Click the link below to download, print, give, repeat:
Must-know Irish Sayings
“Thank God It’s a Soft Day!”
Even when the weather is less than ideal, the Irish always say, “Thank God it’s a soft day.” It could be pouring rain or hailing, but you say it anyway because you might invite worse by complaining.
Use “himself” or “herself” when specifying an important person, such as, “Herself will be calling for breakfast.”
I met a pleasant woman in Adare, who coached a girls’ hurling team. She was telling me about her children, but when she got to the youngest, the only boy, she said, “And then there’s himself.”
“How’s the Craic?”
Craic, pronounced like crack, is the Irish word for fun. It’s basically any gossip or entertainment or good time. “How’s the craic?” is another way to say “How are you?” To which the answer is always “Grand!”
“Ah, Sure Look It”
This is a conversation filler that has no specific meaning. It can be used to answer any question—especially useful if you don’t know what to say.
“Póg Ma Thóin”
Kiss me arse. Pronounced POHG maHONE, this is the first phrase you learn if you ask an Ireland native to teach you a bit of Irish.
Quare means very, as in “The weather’s turned quare fierce.”
“Donkey’s Years” is a really long time, as in, “I haven’t seen himself in donkey’s years.”
“That’ll Put a Stop To His/Her Gallop”
I heard this one during a night of storytelling.
Mrs. Conor is cross with her husband, Paddy, who drinks at the pub until the wee hours of the morning. With the help of her neighbor Mrs. O’Reilly, Mrs. Conor devises a plan to put a stop to his gallop. One night, the wife dresses in costume and hides in the graveyard, awaiting Paddy on his way home. When her husband stumbles drunk through the cemetery, she jumps out from behind a gravestone and shrieks at him.
“Who are you?” Paddy slurs.
“I’m the divil!” Mrs. Conor screeches.
“Well, then, we’d better shake hands,” he says, “because I think I married your sister!”
(After some Googling, I discovered a similar phrase in Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.)
The Irish f-word is quare satisfying and I highly recommend it.
Do you have a favorite Irish saying to teach me? Leave a reply below!
Note: In the Republic of Ireland, the “th” sound is pronounced as if the “h” isn’t there. For example, “Thanks for that,” is said, “T’anks for t’at.” Or, “I’ve been thinking about you,” is, “I’ve been t’inking about you.” Our favorite time of day in Ireland: t’ree t’irty.