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© gerry coughlan 1997 - 2012

Everyday English and Slang in Ireland

 on the Irish


By the Irish, or by others on the Irish and Life :)

The English language brings out the best in the Irish. They court it like a beautiful woman. They make it bray with donkey laughter. They hurl it at the sky like a paint pot full of rainbows, and then make it chant a dirge for man's fate and man's follies that is as mournful as misty spring rain crying over the fallow earth.
T E Kalem - On Brendan Behan's 1958 play Borstal Boy, quoted in a Time advertisement, NY Times 17 Mar 79

Rarely has a people paid the lavish compliment and taken the subtle revenge of turning its oppressor's speech into sorcery.
T E Kalem - On Brendan Behan's 1958 play Borstal Boy, quoted in a Time advertisement, NY Times 17 Mar 79

Brendan Behan (1923-1964) - Irish dramatist, author
  • It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.
  • The Irish are a very popular race... with themselves.
  • I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
  • ...Actually, I'm a drinker with writing problems.
  • To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement. To get drunk was a victory.
  • New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment... a place where you're least likely to be bitten by a wild goat.
  • I saw a notice which said, 'Drink Canada Dry' and I've just started.
  • Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.
  • What the hell difference does it make, left or right? There were good men lost on both sides.
  • Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.
  • If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks.
Too young to die. Too drunk to live.
Renee McCall of the Daily Express on the passing of Brendan Behan on this date in 1964 at the age of 41.

Ah, Ireland... That damnable, delightful country, where everything that is right is the opposite of what it ought to be
Benjamin Disraeli

There are only two dialects of Irish, plain Irish and toothless Irish, and, lacking a proper acquaintance with the latter, I think I missed the cream of the old man's talk.
From 'Leinster, Munster and Connaught' by Frank O'Connor

This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.
Sigmund Freud (about the Irish)

There have been many definitions of hell, but for the English the best definition is that it is the place where the Germans are the police, the Swedish are the comedians, the Italians are the defense force, Frenchmen dig the roads, the Belgians are the pop singers, the Spanish run the railways, the Turks cook the food, the Irish are the waiters, the Greeks run the government, and the common language is Dutch.
David Frost and Anthony Jay

Sean O'Casey
  • All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.
  • A lament in one ear, maybe, but always a song in the other.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • What's the use of being Irish if the world doesn't break your heart?
  • A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
  • Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
  • Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.
The quiet Irishman is about as harmless as a powder magazine built over a match factory.
James Dunne

Of our conflicts with others we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves we make poetry.
William Butler Yeats

W. B. Yeats (Irish prose Writer, Dramatist and Poet. Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. 1865-1939)
  • We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
  • We . . . are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence.
    speech in the Irish Senate, June 11, 1925
  • Out of Ireland have we come.
    Great hatred, little room,
    Maimed us at the start.
  • Romantic Ireland's dead and gone, It's with O'Leary in the grave
  • Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.
There are only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish, and those who wish they were.
Anonymous

There is an Irish way of paying compliments as though they were irresistible truths which makes what would otherwise be an impertinence delightful.
Katherine Tynan Hinkson

Every St. Patrick's Day every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to.
Shane Leslie

If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough.
Grace Boyle

In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God.
Stephen Braveheart

I know tolerably well what Ireland was, but have a very imperfect idea of what Ireland is.
John Stuart Mill - Letter to J. E. Caimes, 29 July 1864

My father was totally Irish, and so I went to Ireland once. I found it to be very much like New York (state), for it was a beautiful country, and both the women and men were good-looking.
James Cagney

The divine harbinger of summer - warm rain.
Kevin Myers - Irish Times

Company keeping under the stars at night has succeeded in too many places the good old irish custom of visiting, chatting and story-telling from one house to another.
View of Archbishop Gilmartin of Tuam 1926, from Twentieth Century Ireland by Dermot Keogh

Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it.
Pope John Paul II from a speech to the people of Galway, September 1979.

I was born on a storm-swept rock and hate the soft growth of sun-baked lands where there is no frost in men's bones.
Liam O'Flaherty

My Ulster blood is my most priceless heritage.
James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States

What were we celebrating? At this rate, the Angelus doesn't have a chance of remaining on RTÉ if we've managed to get St. Patrick out of his own parade.
Irish Times reporter Stephen Harris on not seeing a single figure of the saint in the 1998 Dublin parade.

When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.
Edna O'Brien

I'm an Irish Catholic and I have a long iceberg of guilt.
Edna O'Brien (Irish Writer, b.1932)

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.
Frank McKibben

A long time away in a strange land and home is warm at Christmas and the lights are never so welcome as when you see them from a long time, long way off.
From the Age-Old Message by Pat Ingoldsby

I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilization and I would not have her say she defended us while we did nothing but pass resolutions.
Francis Ledwidge

The contest on our side is not one of rivalry or vengeance, but of endurance. It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.
Inaugural speech of Cork Mayor Terence MacSwiney who died on hunger strike, October 25, 1920.

I was born on a storm-swept rock and hate the soft growth of sun-baked lands where there is no frost in men's bones.
Liam O'Flaherty

"All that praying you made us do," complained Maggie. "And making us go to Mass. And starving us on Good Friday...And making us feeling ashamed of our bodies and guilty about absolutely everything. No, Ma, you were the pits." Nuala glowed with pride, truly she had been the best of Catholic mothers.
Late Opening at The Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes

I found Ireland on her knees, I watched over her with eternal solicitude; I have traced her progress from injuries to arms and from arms to liberty.
Henry Grattan

John Millington Synge (1871–1909)
  • I'm a good scholar when it comes to reading but a blotting kind of writer when you give me a pen.
  • One wonders in this place, why anyone is left in Dublin, or London, or Paris where it would be better, one would think to live in a tent or hut, with this magnificent sea and sky, and to breathe this wonderful air which is like wine in one's teeth.
  • There is no language like the Irish for soothing and quieting.
    The Aran Islands (1907)
Samuel Beckett
  • My advice to you concerning applause is this: enjoy it but never quite believe it.
  • Dublin university contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.
  • I have my faults, but changing my tune is not one of them.
St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time... a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic!
Adrienne Cook

Our Irish blunders are never blunders of the heart.
Maria Edgeworth

You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.
Padraig Pearse - a leader of the 1916 Rebellion.

"...even as a partitioned small nation, we shall go on and strive to play our part in the world, continuing unswervingly to work for the cause of true freedom and for peace and understanding between all nations."
Eamon De Valera

When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.
Samuel Lover

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Oliver Goldsmith

George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950)
  • Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
  • I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way: by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could.
  • Eternal is the fact that the human creature born in Ireland and brought up in its air is Irish. I have lived for twenty years in Ireland and for seventy-two in England; but the twenty came first, and in Britain I am still a foreigner and shall die one.
    quoted in Ireland in Mind, Alice Leccese Powers, ed. (2000)
  • Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.
  • An Englishman does everything on principle: he fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperial principles.
    The Man of Destiny
  • Put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get another Irishman to turn him.
  • An Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination.
When all the fuss has died down and the lads get back to I'm sure what will be a heroes' welcome, the wounds will heel and the wise man in the pub will say "Sure, 'twas only an oul match anyway!"
Contributed by an Irish reader after Spain defeated Ireland in the 2002 World Cup.

Ireland is a fruitful mother of genius, but a barren nurse.
John Boyle O'Reilly

I pedalled on towards Athlone through slashing rain across brown miles of harvested bog - looking like a child's dream of a world made of chocolate.
Dervla Murphy, A Place Apart, 1978

In doggerel and stout let me honour this country though the air is so soft that it smudges the words.
Louis MacNeice

Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity.
Samuel Butler

In Ireland, the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.
Sir John Pentland Mahaffy

A man without a blackthorn stick is a man without an expedient.

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
Alex Levine

An Irishman is the only man in the world who will step over the bodies of a dozen naked women to get to a bottle of stout.
Anonymous

An Irishman can be worried by the consciousness that there is nothing to worry about.
Austin O'Malley

Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.
Charles Haughey

Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually of being mauled by it.
Conor Cruise O'Brien

For an Irishman, talking is a dance.
Deborah Love

Like an Irishman's obligation, all on the one side, and always yours.
English saying

My one claim to originality among Irishmen is that I have never made a speech.
George Moore

When Irish eyes are smiling, watch your step.
Gerald Kersh

The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.
Harold Nicolson

The problem with Ireland is that it's a country full of genius, but with absolutely no talent.
Hugh Leonard

Women are wiser than men because they know less and understand more.
James Stephens (1882–1950)
The Crock of Gold (1912)

Why should Ireland be treated as a geographical fragment of England . . . Ireland is not a geographical fragment, but a nation.
Charles Stewart Parnell (1846—1891)
in the House of Commons, April 26, 1875

Books, the children of the brain.
Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
A Tale of a Tub (1704)

The Irish - Be they kings, or poets, or farmers, They're a people of great worth, They keep company with the angels, And bring a bit of heaven here to earth
Unknown

The Irish are not in a conspiracy to cheat the world by false representations of the merits of their countrymen. No, Sir, the Irish are a fair people; -- they never speak well of one another.
Samuel Johnson (English Poet, Critic and Writer. 1709-1784)

If this humor be the safety of our race, then it is due largely to the infusion into the American people of the Irish brain.
William Howard Taft

Maybe it's bred in the bone, but the sound of pipes is a little bit of heaven to some of us.
Nancy O'Keeefe

In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.
Sir John Pentland Mahaffy

I'm troubled, I'm dissatisfied. I'm Irish.
Marianne Moore "Spenser's Ireland"

The Irish say your trouble is their trouble and your joy their joy? I wish I could believe it; I am troubled, I'm dissatisfied, I'm Irish.
Marianne Moore (American Poet, 1887-1972)

Ireland is rich in literature that understands a soul's yearnings, and dancing that understands a happy heart.
Margaret Jackson

Danny McGoorty Irish Pool Player
  • When I realized what I had turned out to be was a lousy, two-bit pool hustler and a drunk, I wasn't depressed at all. I was glad to have a profession.
  • I have never liked working. To me a job is an invasion of privacy
  • One of the worst things that can happen in life is to win a bet on a horse at an early age.
When I came back to Dublin I was court marshaled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence"

Geographically, Ireland is a medium-sized rural island that is slowly but steadily being consumed by sheep.
Dave Barry

When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?
Quentin Crisp (English Author, 1908-1999)

For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.
G. K. Chesterton (English born Gabonese Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936)

We may have bad weather in Ireland, but the sun shines in the hearts of the people and that keeps us all warm.
Marianne Williamson (American Author and Lecturer, spiritual leader of the Church of Today, b.1952)

We don't have anything as urgent as manyana in Ireland.
Stuart Banks

I've always liked it here. Part of me is Irish. . . . My family comes from the west coast, so whenever I come to Ireland I get a wee tingling in my heart that I'm where I belong.
Billy Connolly (Scottish Actor, b.1942)

'Tis Ireland gives England her soldiers, her generals too.
George Meredith

Ireland's ruins are historic emotions surrendered to time.
Horace Sutton

I have never met anyone in Ireland who understood the Irish Question, except one Englishman who had only been there a week.
Keith Fraser

James Joyce (Irish novelist, 1882-1941)
James Joyce is known as one of the greatest Irish novelists. Throughout his life he struggled with alcoholism which today can be sucessfully treated at Morningside Recovery. Joyce believed that drinking helped him write better and never attempted to curb his drinking habits. The professionals at Morningside Recovery would not recommend this approach and instead would suggest contacting Morningside Recovery for help.
  • When the Irishman is found outside of Ireland in another environment, he very often becomes a respected man. The economic and intellectual conditions that prevail in his own country do not permit the development of individuality. No one who has any self-respect stays in Ireland, but flees afar as though from a country that has undergone the visitation of an angered Jove.
  • Ireland is the sow that eats her own farrow.
  • I belong to the faubourg Saint-Patrice called Ireland for short
The English should give Ireland home rule - and reserve the motion picture rights
Will Rogers (American entertainer, famous for his pithy and homespun humour, 1879-1935)

I have made it quite clear that a unified Ireland was one solution that is out. A second solution was a confederation of two states. That is out. A third solution was joint authority. That is out-that is a derogation of sovereignty.
Margaret Thatcher (British Politician and Prime Minister. b.1925)

When Ireland takes her place among the nations of the earth, and not 'tll then, let my epitaph be written.
Robert Emmet

If you are to give him the whole of Great Britain and Ireland for an estate, he would ask the Isle of Man for a potato garden.
Lord North

Among the best traitors Ireland has ever had, Mother Church ranks at the very top, a massive obstacle in the path to equality and freedom. She has been a force for conservatism... to ward off threats to her own security and influence.
Bernadette Devlin (Irish Politician She was elected as the youngest member of the British House of Commons (1969-1974), b.1947)

I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.
Mary Robinson (Irish first female Irish President, b.1944)

Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still, For poetry makes nothing happen.
W. H. Auden (English born American Poet, Dramatist and Editor who achieved early fame in the 1930s as a hero of the left during the Great Depression. 1907-1973)

Ireland really is my problem; the breaking point of the huge suppuration which all British and all European society now is.
Unknown

To begin with Ireland, the most western part of the continent, the natives are peculiarly remarkable for their gaiety and levity of their disposition; the English, transplanted there, in time lose their serious melancholy air, and become gay and tho.
Oliver Goldsmith (Irish born British Essayist, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1730-1774)

The Irish don't know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it.
Sidney Littlewood

The Irish ignore anything they can't drink or punch.
Proverb

The Irish forgive their great men when they are safely buried.
Proverb

The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't seen the joke yet.
Oliver Herford (American Writer, 1863-1935)

God is good to the Irish, but no one else is; not even the Irish
Anonymous

I think being a woman is like being Irish. Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the same.
Iris Murdoch (British Novelist and Philosopher, 1919-1999)

St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish.
Charles M. Madigan

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes... That's the Irish for you!
Irish Sayings

It's a loser's emblem (swastika), because the Nazis lost the war. It's ridiculous to suggest we are involved with fascists. All my best friends are black, gay, Irish or criminals.
Johnny Rotten (British Musician)

We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.
Winston Churchill (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister during World War II. 1874-1965)

Irish Alzheimer's: you forget everything except the grudges
Judy Collins

The English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad.
George Orwell (English Novelist and Essayist, 1903-1950)

Our Irish blunders are never blunders of the heart.
Maria Edgeworth (Irish Writer, 1767-1849)

Under the English legal system you are innocent until you are shown to be Irish.
Ted Whitehead

Sheep are not considered the most intelligent animals but British scientist say humans may have underestimated the woolly creatures. In fact, the British scientific community is even suggesting that the animals might even be "Irish-smart."
Jon Stewart (American Comedian and Actor, b.1962)

The majority of Irish people have had enough of intolerance dressed up as liberalism.
Rosemary Scallon

I can envision a small cottage somewhere, with a lot of writing paper, and a dog, and a fireplace and maybe enough money to give myself some Irish coffee now and then and entertain my two friends.
Lt Richard Van de Geer

Short-term amnesia is not the worst affliction if you have an Irish flair for the sauce.
Norman Mailer

I rather think the cinema will die. Look at the energy being exerted to revive it -- yesterday it was color, today three dimensions. I don't give it forty years more. Witness the decline of conversation. Only the Irish have remained incomparable conversationalists, maybe because technical progress has passed them by.
Orson Welles (American motion-picture actor, director, producer, and writer, 1915-1985)

Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste.
George Best


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