Irish English Oddities

I read in a book once that American English is technically closer to what Shakespeare would have spoken than British English today.  This goes back to, of course, the settlement of the first American colonies.  We kept the same style of English as our forefathers (mostly) while it later changed over in England.  This is why there are different words for the same thing in England, for example, “tap” versus “faucet.”  Now this is really interesting but…what about Irish English?

Although you may not realize this, Irish English has loads of different expressions, pronunciations and quirks that standard British English does not have, and even more so when comparing it to American English!  So, since I’m an American who’s obsessed with linguistics and used to live in Ireland, I figured it would be silly for me to not write an entry about the oddities I’ve heard over there from my lovely Irish friends.

1) The “like” tag

My fellow Americans and I are very aware of the word “like” and whether we like it or not, we use this word probably way too often than ever necessary.  The Irish, however, also use “like” quite often, but in a very different way!  Instead of weaving “like” several times into a sentence, they add it on just at the end of sentences.  Here are some examples:

American: “I know that I, like, did this myself and, like, probably should have studied more.”

Irish: “I know I should have studied more.  I did it to myself, like.

This “like” tag sounds VERY weird at first to an American ear, but you adjust to it and honestly, if I heard an Irish person using “like” the same way I did, it would feel like it was forced.  Just like when an American tries to use the “like” tag in order to assimilate into Ireland…it just doesn’t seem to work.

2) The “so” tag

I’m going to be honest, I’m not 100% sure about when this can be used.  I’ve tried finding an American equivalent, but it’s difficult.  Basically, Irish people like to add “so” to the end of sentences sometimes.  One case I’ve heard it used is something like an American adding “then” to the end of a sentence.

American: Maybe I’ll do that then.

Irish: Maybe I’ll do that so.

This could be wrong, however.  If anyone understands this phenomenon, please explain.

3) “C’mere” (come here)

My closest friend here uses this all the time (actually she uses all of the things I’m pointing out, so sorry to pick on ya).  When getting someone’s attention to say something, they’ll say, “c’mere” as if you need to come closer but, really, you don’t need to.  I was so confused by this at first because I’d be sitting right next to my friend and she’d be like “but c’mere what do you think of the assignment so far?”  And I’d awkwardly move closer as if she’s about to tell me some big secret.  But nope.  It’s just a statement opener, I suppose.

4) “Now!”

This is one of those things that you never notice but when you do, you can never un-notice it.  It’s adorable.  Basically, at the start of any given sentence or action, and Irish person might say, “now!”

For example:

Now! Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“Now!” *stands up to buy coffee.*

*sits back down and opens laptop* “Now!” *starts reading emails*

Literally, this can be used for anything and has no particular meaning other than the start of a phrase or action.

5) “Sure didn’t (he)”

Yet another confusing oddity of Irish English is the “sure didn’t.”  Okay, the way that Irish people use this is confusing to an American ear because it almost sounds like they’re asking you for clarity or reassurance…but it also doesn’t make sense for them to need to ask.  Let me just show an example:

Irish: “I worked so hard on that essay and sure didn’t the professor go and fail me.”

American: “did he?  I think that’s what you told me earlier…or did he not? Wait, why are you asking me???”

My Irish friend and I discovered the use of this expression, though.  It’s kind of like, “…and can you believe he went and failed me?” or “…and he went and failed me anyway!”  I guess, it’s an expression of shock or disbelief of the sort.

6) “Ye”

I don’t believe that this one is difficult for an American ear to understand, because we’ve heard this used in old-timey movies and whatnot. “Hear ye! Hear ye!” <– ring a bell?

Anyway, “ye” is the pronoun for plural you.  American English doesn’t use “ye” but we realize that it can be confusing to say “you” when referring to more than one person.  This is why Americans will say “you guys” or “you all” or the ever-beloved, “y’all.”

This is the correct pronoun for plural you in old English, so really I suppose it’s just something they never got rid of.  I love it though!

7) “You alright?”

This is only odd for Americans to hear because of the circumstances.  When you enter a bar or sit down at a table at a pub, the bartender or server asks, “you alright?”

This used to bother me because it always caught me off guard and I’d forget how to order a beer.  I’d be like “oh yea I’m fine thanks uhhh Guinness??”  It’s like in America when someone is walking past you and shouts “what’s up?” as if you can tell them what you’re about to go do while walking AWAY from them.  How do you respond??  I always want to tell waitresses that I’m not-so-alright because I’m hangry and don’t wanna talk about my feelings although they’ve insisted you tell them your current state of being, or alrightness.

I’m honestly still a bit taken aback when they ask “you alright” but I’ve gotten used to ignoring their question and just politely ordering.

8) “Ju”

This doesn’t need to much explaining.  Basically, “did you” or “do you” just squishes together into “ju.”  They not only use this orally, but they also text it.

9) “Your man” or “Your one”

This phrase still makes me giggle. So, say you’re in a bar and you’ve told your friends that a guy sitting a table over is total jackass. They might say something like “How did you meet your man?”

As an American, I’d be like, “my MAN??” He’s the farthest thing from being MY MAN!! However, when an Irish person uses the phrase “your man” or “your one,” they’re only referencing someone. It doesn’t even have to be a reference to someone you’ve already talked about. Maybe your Irish friend sees someone wearing a tacky outfit and says “Your one looks ready for the circus.”

_______________________________________________

I realize that I could write forever on this topic and there are also so many things I could say about pronunciations and accents, but I feel like the 9 things listed got my point across.  Irish English is indeed different from American English and can be rather puzzling sometimes!  I hope this helps you all understand someone if you’re traveling to Ireland or maybe you can fake a few of these to make Irish people think you’re Irish. (Trust me, they will not fall for that, but give it a go).

Published by

Zoë Cardinal

Core Values: Positivity, Dedication, Education & Growth A language nerd with a passion for learning, I aspire to live each day to its ultimate good. I'm consistently in search of ways to become a better person and world citizen, by being of service to others and practicing self-care. I'm currently a middle school teacher in Brooklyn, NYC. Before moving to the city, I studied French, Sociology and Linguistics. I'm blessed to have spent a year in the south of France and a year in Ireland during my studies. I'm sober. I'm queer. I believe I'm on this earth to learn as much as possible and inspire others to do the same!

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