There’s a tiny but definite language barrier for Americans visiting Ireland. Not a big one. Just takes a bit of a run, skip and a jump to clear, but it’s definitely there.
Aside from the lilting accent that twists vowels into incomprehensible flourishes, there are also plenty of words that trip up the unassuming foreigner.
Some of them I already knew from Harry Potter. And others had me as confused as a Chihuahua among St. Bernards.
Here are the words that I’ve actually caught myself saying in place of their American counterparts:
1. Arah: Definition?
I don’t know. It’s some sort of exclamation. It’s pronounced halfway between “air-uh” and “arr-uh.” Also:
Arah here!: Oh, come on! (Shortened to “Here!” when your boyfriend is watching football.)
Arah shite!: Oh bother!
“Arah shite! I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I’ll have to be up before noon.”
2. Bin: Trash can.
“The bin smells like a dead homeless fish.”
3. Biscuit: Cookie.
“You aren’t allowed in the house unless you bring biscuits.” (Actual house rule.)
A “cookie” in Ireland is specifically a chocolate chip cookie. A “biscuit” is pretty much every other type of cookie. And what we call biscuits in the U.S.? I haven’t actually seen one here, but they’d probably call it a “scone.”
4. Boots: Cleats.
“I don’t know where your boots are since I have never worn nor touched them! I don’t care what time football starts! I’m not helping you look for them! I’m watching Desperate Housewives! Tell the lads you’ll be late! Stop bothering me!”
Or something like that.
5. Class: Great.
“Last night was class! I don’t remember a thing!”
6. Euro Saver: Dollar Menu at McDonald’s. Probably the most important linguistic discovery I’ve made.
Also of note: McDonald’s is pronounced “Mac Donald’s” here.
7. Good luck: Good-bye. This is often abbreviated in the Irish accent.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
8. Lads: Boys; also “you guys” or “you all.”
“You’re going out with the lads tonight? I thought you were going to stay in and watch Amanda Bynes movies with me.”
“Which Amanda movie are we going to watch, lads? Somebody has to make a decision.”
9. Craic: A complicated, multi-faceted word indicating fun or a good time. Pronounced “crack.” Not to be confused with the hard drug.
“She’s no craic; she never plays Scrabble with me.”
Also: What’s the craic?
It means, “What’s up?” However, the “what” is usually silent, confusing many tourists. Interpet “‘s the craic?” similarly.
So there you have it. The first 9 colloquial Irish words to infiltrate my vocabulary. And I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more to come.