Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Don’t Be a Muggins: Learn Some Irish Slang

James Lancaster, Tony Ward and Kirsten Potter in The Weir.
It’s March, and St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. And even if you can’t do an Irish accent, you can still sound like an Irishman with a little help from our guide to Irish slang, filled with expressions found in The Weir, which begins previews March 13.

Written by Conor McPherson, The Weir is set entirely in a tiny Irish pub, where four men and a lone woman toss back beer and whiskey as they tell ghost stories from their pasts. Listen carefully, and not only will you hear the words and phrases listed below, but echoes of spirits long gone.

Acting the mess: Playing the fool. “Don’t be acting the mess; come in out of the rain.”

Cod: Trick. (Can be a noun or a verb.) “Oh, that story’s only an old cod,” or “Are you codding me?”

Crack:  Fun. “Last night’s party was crack.” Also used as part of a greeting: “How’s the crack?” (What’s up?)

Culchie: A city dweller’s name for a country person. “All of us culchies took a bus into Dublin for the wedding.”

Dote: Softie. “Oh, don’t let his bad mood fool you. He’s a dote.”

Eye for the gap: An ability to see opportunity. Often used to describe rugby players who can spot the weakness in their opponent’s defense. “Bought up the whole town years ago, I did, for nothing, ´cause I’ve got an eye for the gap.”

Figary: Whim. “He’d be the fella who’d have a figary and drink nothing but bottled beer from now on.”

Gas: Fun, or amusing. “It’s gas,” or “She’s a gas young one.” 

Give out: Criticize, scold. “Quit your giving out and join us for a drink.”

Header/Headbanger: Lunatic. “You all think I’m a headbanger, I can tell.” (Another synonym is “loolah.”)

Holliers: Vacation. “Families on their holliers like to pitch tents around these parts.”

Janey: An exclamation akin to “jeepers!” or “jiminy!”—something that sounds like “Jesus!” without the blasphemy. “Ah, Janey! I won’t be able to sleep after all these ghost stories.”

Muggins: A fool. “There’s obviously something wrong with him, the muggins.”

Peel a banana in his pocket: Tight-fisted, cheap. Often the phrase is “peel an orange in his pocket.” The idea is that someone is so cheap, he will peel a piece of fruit inside his pocket so no one will see it and ask for a bite. “That fella’d peel a banana in his pocket.”

Poitin: Irish moonshine. “He pulled out a bottle of poitin he bought off Old Man Flanagan, and we passed it around.”

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