Saturday, March 7, 2009

“Howya! Any craíc?”

In these dreadful and dreary waiting days for the other shoe to fall with the global economy, the only thing to do sometimes is laugh between the stressful revelations unfolding before us. So I ask, Any craic?

One might think that because the English language is spoken in Ireland, that any speaker of English can communicate well here. But it is not so. There are many little peculiarities of the language; a few are listed below. To top it off, I have added a couple Irish stories at the end.

Perhaps these times of gloom and doom turn us inwards toward the land and culture that cradles us. In Ireland hard times have become part of the cultural backbone; and nowhere is it more evident than in the ability to laugh and dance and sing through even the worst times.

Hope this this trivia gives you a breather....just a bit of craic.


Bye bye bye . . . - It is impolite to say a single goodbye when ending a conversation with an Irish person on the phone.

Wifey and I were astonished the first time we heard an Irish person end a phone call. It went something like this,

“Yeah? I’ll see ya then, so. Okay. Bye. Bye. Bye, bye. Bye. Bye-bye-bye. Bye. Bye-bye. Bye.”

Seriously. It’s impolite here to say “Bye,” and then hang up the phone. The more pleased you are with whom you are talking, the more goodbyes herald the end of the conversation. It’s simply exponential. If the person at the other end chatters off a dozen “bye-bye-bye-bye…”s at ya, you’d best reciprocate lest you appear curt and unfriendly.

The way this is usually handled is this: as the “bye”s start rattling off the tongue, the person slowly moves the phone away from their head, eyeing the hang-up button as it comes into sight, and then pushes it mid-”bye” so as not to appear as if they hung up willingly, but that a longer string of affectionate “bye”s was forthcoming, had they not been cut off by some disconnection fault.

At first we found it a bit odd, all these “bye”s at the end of conversations. Then we realised that the musical “buh-bye” used stateside probably sounds equally silly.

A friend once explained this behavior as a modern compression of the old Irish way of saying farewell. He asserts that Irish people would say goodbye about an hour before they actually physically left someone’s house. It would happen like this: They would say goodbye, talk a bit more. Say goodbye, stand, talk a bit more. Find the coat, say goodbye, chat a bit more. Move to the doorway when saying goodbye, then stand and talk there for a bit. Of course there are some words and affections to be exchanged on the porch along with more goodbyes. Motorised transportation was almost unheard of, so people would still be talking as they slowly moved to the gate, onto the path, and then away down the road, calling goodbyes the whole time until they were out of shouting range.

Nowadays, all this happens on the phone in a few seconds:

“Bye bye bye bye. Bye. Bye. Bye, bye. Bye. Bye-bye-bye. Bye. Bye-bye. Bye.” *click*

You know yourself - This phrase is dropped into Irish conversation as often as “you know” is dropped into Californian conversation; almost constantly. It means either “you understand,” or “it’s up to you.”

It’s used when making a point: “I had to tell her what I thought, you know yourself.”
It’s used to avoid a lengthy explanation: “It was grand, you know yourself.”
It’s used to encourage: “You’ll be fine, you know yourself.”
It can be used to avoid responding to an inquiry: “How are things?” “Ah, you know yourself.”
It can be used to avoid making a decision: “What would you like to do?” “Whatever you think, you know yourself.”

Your man - The person to which I’m referring.

This is a very Irish turn of phrase that can catch people who have never heard it before a bit off-guard. The first time I heard it, someone was talking to me about country music, something I’m not too keen on, and said, “Your man, Garth Brooks, for example . . . “

For a minute I was mildly offended that, just because I was from the states this Irish guy had lumped me in with Garth Brooks, saying that he was obviously “my man,” when I didn’t even like country music.

Later that day I heard this phrase again when someone pointed out a total stranger to me and said, “Your man over there,” proceeding to tell me about him.

Obviously, this was a turn of phrase we heard SO often that we quickly understood it to mean “that guy” in the third person. An Irishman can be talking about your worst enemy to you and still refer to him as “your man.”

Gender-wise, it’s equally common to refer to a woman in the third person as “your woman.”

An Irish “your man” is nothing to you; he’s just - as Douglas Adams says - “this guy, you know?”

Craíc - Pronounced “crack,” this has to be first word I discuss because it’s used ALL the time. Unlike the others I’ll be discussing, craíc is actually from the Irish language. This word pops up so frequently it can be dizzying, usually in the following ways:

What’s the craíc?
How’s the craíc?
We’ll go for the craíc.
He/she is good craíc.
The craíc was mighty!

To the californian ear it sounds like people are discussing their drug use, but “craíc” is an Irish noun meaning “fun” or “happenings.” Go on, give it a try:

“Howya! Any craíc?”

Fanny - A very rude word for a woman’s private parts.


Never use this word in polite company as it does NOT mean your gluteus maximus out here. In Ireland, “fanny” is so rudely specific, it’s pretty much treated like a curse word.

Poor, oblivious US tourists come to Ireland every day and refer to the “fanny pack” they’re wearing unknowingly causing the Irish people around them to blush and/or giggle every time they hear it said. The anglicization of “fanny pack” is “bum bag,” by the way.

Just a bit of Irish humour here...


"Well, Mrs. O'Connor, so you want a divorce?" the solicitor questioned his client.

"Tell me about it. Do you have a grudge?"

"Oh, no," replied Mrs. O'Connor. "Shure now, we have a carport."

The solicitor tried again. "Well, does the man beat you up?"

"No, no," said Mrs. O'Connor, looking puzzled. "Oi'm always first out of bed."

Still hopeful, the solicitor tried once again.

"What I'm trying to find out are what grounds you have."

"Bless ye, sor. We live in a flat -- not even a window box, let alone grounds."

"Mrs. O'Connor," the solicitor said in considerable exasperation, "you need a reason that the court can consider.

What is the reason for you seeking this divorce?"

"Ah, well now," said the lady,

"Shure it's because the man can't hold an intelligent conversation."


On vacation in Europe, Bob noticed a marble column in a church in Rome with a golden telephone on it. As a young priest passed by, Bob asked who the telephone was for. The priest told him it was a direct line to Heaven, and if he’d like to call, it would be a thousand dollars. Bob was amazed, but declined the offer.

Throughout Europe Bob kept seeing the same golden telephone on a marble column. At each, he asked about it and the answer was always the same: a direct line to Heaven and he could call for a thousand dollars.

Bob finished his tour of Europe with a stop in Ireland . He decided to attend Mass at a local village church. When he walked in the door he noticed the golden telephone, but underneath it there was a sign stating: “DIRECT LINE TO HEAVEN — 25 CENTS”

“Father,” he said, “I have been all over Europe and in all the cathedrals I visited, I’ve seen telephones exactly like this one but the price is always a thousand dollars. Why is it that this one is only 25 cents?”

The priest smiled and said,

“Son, you’re in Ireland now. It’s a local call.”

No comments:


All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.