Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Glossary of my language

One of my hobbies is etymology, if you don’t know what it means get a dictionary!
But seriously though, my American pals & colleagues always get confused and sometimes worried when I use the following terms, in conversation or work situations.

So in an effort at D├ętente, International Co-Operation, World Peace and simply to clarify the meanings for the American (& indeed British) reader, I have embarked on writing a small list which I may add to from time to time.

Hopefully, this list will explain words as they are to me and ought to be to them! (In my mindJ!).

Arse: Ass as in posterior.
(e.g.) “He is a right pain in the arse!” Also can be used as a term of defiance as in “I will in me arse!”

Bog: A term of disdain normally used by townies and Dubliners to the country side.
“Get back to the Bog, ya culchie!”. It can also refer to the bathroom, as in “I’m going to the bog!”

Bollocks, Bollix: means literally testes/testicles but usually as a term of enragement. However it can be used as a term of endearment depending on the tone it is said in.
“You Lousy bollocks!’ “He’s only a bollox!” “A pain in the bollocks!”

Bum: Arse
“He is a pain in the Bum!”

Crack, Craic: Fun!
(e.g.) “We had great crack in Dublin!” “What’s the crack?” meaning “What are we going to do?’

Culchie: a term usually used by Dubliners but invariably other East Coast Townies to country folk. Apparently, the term has its roots from Kiltymagh, Co. Mayo (pronounced Culchiemack) although a lot of people believe it was a reference to agriculture including the writer of this piece.

Cute: It can have the normal meaning of “awwww” or it can mean sly or cunning.
(e.g.) “Mind him! He’s a cute bastard!”

Doss: To not work. (e.g.) “I had a right doss at school today!”

Dosser: A lazy person (e.g.) “He’s a real dosser!”

Fag: a cigarette
(e.g.) “I am dying for a fag!” “I need a fag!” “I’d kill for a fag!”

Fairy: a member of the Tuatha De Danann. An ancient Irish citizen to be treated with respect and due deference when encountered on a dark night. We never refer to them as fairies normally though. The term usually referred to is “one of the other crowd!” If somebody is daydreaming, it has been heard that “He is away with the fairies!”

Feck: The Irish lite version of F*ck. Like its stronger “Anglo” cousin can mean a whole raft of meanings like
To Feck: to steal
“Feck that!” : “No way!”
“Feck off!” : “Leave me alone!”
“fecking, feckin’” Adjective of
“Fecker”: Pest or alternatively a term of endearment.
Can be used dazzlingly together like, “Feck off! Ye Feckin’ fecker!”.

Gay: happy, go lucky though it isn’t used much anymore. It also is a man’s name, shortened version of Gabriel as in Gabriel or Gay Byrne.

Gob: Mouth
(e.g.) “I’ll give you a smack in the gob!’

Gobshite: a bull shitter, a fool
(e.g.) “Never mind that Gobshite!”

Gurrier: a youth of low moral caliber. Brave when they have a few cans of cider and hunt in packs. Picking normally on an isolated or lone individual. They can be found in all social strata. Usually they grow up to be rugby players, tax collectors and lawyers.
(e.g). "They are a right, nasty bunch of Gurriers!'

Hoor: Whore nominally but as in all things Irish, it has a plethora of meanings like;
“Watch that one! He’s a cute hoor!”
“Ye hoor, yeh!” - Exclamation of surprise or disdain
“ye little hoor!” :- loving term from your mom!

Jacks: a term used by Dubliners in reference to the bathroom.
(e.g.) “I’m off to the jacks!”

Joint: side of roast beef. The traditional Irish and British Sunday dinner. Simply put an institution of both Islands.
(e.g.) “Granny really loved the Sunday Joint”. “The family had a joint on Sunday”.

Knacker: a term used for a tinker usually in a disparaging manner. It is usually referred though to a person of low social standing or class. A person of unsophisticated tastes.
(e.g.) “He’s only a knacker, don’t mind him”
“They’re a bunch of knackers!’ in reference say to a football/soccer team whose tactics are, shall we say, dubious or uncompromising at best.

From the root of Knacker, we get

Knackered: which means tired¹ but also can be used as beaten²?
(e.g.)¹ “I am Knackered, , I haven’t slept in days!’
(e.g.)² “We’re knackered now, they’ve scored again!”

Lad: A term for a boy normally but when “the ”is put before it, it has only one meaning in the Irish psyche meaning the male appendage or penis. Always referred to in the third person.
(e.g.) “How’s the lad?” a popular greeting among (usually) young Irish males in a light hearted enquiry as to one’s sex life. Amongst Older Irish males though, it is normally an enquiry about one’s self in the third person! A reflection on the libido I guess as one gets older

Mickey: Pet name for the penis as in “Me Mickey is itchy!” usually overheard from a pack of Gurriers on a Saturday night in a fast food outlet

Quare: Odd, not right.
(e.g.). “Something is quare here!” or “That’s quare!”

Quare fella: Usually a term for Satan or the devil.
(e.g.) “I think he’s in with the quare fella!”

Redneck: A term for a culchie or a countryperson. My Dublin born mammy told me it was a reference to culchies getting slapped on the back of their necks by their frustrated parents, saying “Get up to Dublin and get a job!”
(e.g.) “Go back to the bog, ya redneck!”

Smack: Slap, a blow
(e.g.) “I’ll give you a smack in the gob!” “I’ll smack the arse off you!”
(c) deadlydesh ravenspoint 2005

(image courtesy of Fr. Ted online @

Friday, February 04, 2005

1988 and all that

In the buildup to the European championships in Germany. The BBC did an interview with Johann Cruyff, a handy enough player in his day!

If I recall, Bob Wilson, ex Gooner & Scotland keeper was the interviewer and at the end of the segment, Bob intones the warning somewhat patronizingly that Mr. Cruyff had a surprise bet. “Don’t ignore the Irish!” he advised. “They won’t change their game for no-one! They play together as one unit, for each other!”

That was as mild as it got from the British Media regarding the Irish. The general sneering tone from paper, pundits and quotable insiders were that Ireland was there for the holidays. That Ireland played a kick & rush game. That Ireland was unsophisticated, that her players were ‘plastic paddies” and “guns for hire”. These latter labels were accredited to the fact that a number of the squad, notably John Aldridge & Ray Houghton were born in the UK…no matter that some of the England players like Terry Butcher and John Barnes were similarly challenged!

Then June 12th happened

There were many ironies that day, too numerous to mention here but the irony of it all though was that It was an Englishman who lead us through this. Too truculent and outspoken in his own association’s eyes, Jack Charlton’s direct no-nonsense, “say it as it is!” talk endeared him to Irish hearts and his subsequent loyalty to his players only heightened the respect he garnished from a grateful country, starved of meaningful success on the world stage of sport.

Jack embraced the siege mentality of the underdog. It was something he, his players and indeed his adopted country could all share in as they out on the greatest sporting adventure the country had ever experienced.

The players, native and foreign born found the dynamic of such a psychological milieu of the siege spirit a terrifically unifying force. It was something the manager had harnessed before in qualifying & friendly games particularly in matches against Scotland, Bulgaria and Brazil but now against perfidious Albion, the mental energy such a spirit engendered coupled with the raw emotion of facing “superior England” unleashed a whirlwind of commitment and passion that was very focused on one goal – victory!

England weren’t the first Country to underestimate Ireland and indeed they weren’t the last. Many Countries had previously misjudged the Irish, usually almost consistently to their cost.

The wake up call came at precisely 3.36pm local time on June 12th in the Neckar Stadion in Stuttgart when Ray Houghton headed rather cheekily over an out of place Peter Shilton after some keystone capers by the English Defense caused by Jack Charlton’s “pressure game”.

"You owe us a pint!"
Ray Houghton and Ronnie Whelan celebrate the opening of Jack Charlton's wallet

This “pressure game” basically was a system that kept the opposing team on the back foot principally in their own half. Compressing that space caused chaos for the defending team and tremendous advantages for the attacking team. It required incredible stamina and athleticism and no mean footballing skill either but the first two factors were paramount.

It wasn’t kick and rush, it was a whole new concept of the term “Total Football” that eventual tournament winners Holland and the architect of the principle, Rinus Michels had introduced to the world. The first attacker was the keeper, the first defender was the center forward. The wings were used with devastating effect on counter attacks on those rare occasions they were being pressed themselves. It was a culture shock to the footballing powers when they encountered it.

It shook England to the core as they found an Irish team that was up to it in every sense of the word.

Ireland ran England ragged in that opening 45 minutes. The Chants from the 15,000 or so strong Green army that had made the pilgrimage to Germany were stoic to say the least, as pundit after pundit was assailed from the terraces. “Are you watching Jimmy Hill, Brian Clough, etc!”. The neutral Germans loved the atmosphere as they joined in with The Irish fans in singing “Auf Weidersehn England!” to the tune of Mary Hopkin’s “those were the days!”.

It was almost as if 800 years of history was pressing down on that pitch that day. As England strove for an equalizer in the second half, it appeared that a legion of ghosts had planted themselves around Packie Bonner’s goal as chance after chance went amiss and astray for the English. Irish Goalkeeper Bonner made some outstanding saves that day, having the game of his life. The Irish Defense was magnificently marshaled by Mick McCarthy another “Anglo” who’s Waterford born father taught him hurling on the playing fields of Barnsley as a youngster.

Many an Irishman in the second 45 minutes prayed as they never had before for a victory. A power surge of prayer must have overloaded Heaven’s grid and swamped the pearly gates’ telephone exchange as devout vows were made in earnest as every minute in that half ticked tortuously by. The only rattles heard that day were the rattles of the rosary beads clicking furiously like a demented granny knitting on speed.

One was aware that potentially, history was in the making. A day that would never, ever be forgotten. This day would be retold to children & grandchildren down through the years. One realized how the ancient heroes were now not so ancient as modern day “Cuchullains” and Fionn McCumhails of our own were springing up before our eyes. Now you understood how legends were born and one could understand suddenly, how the generations that preceded us to the dawn of time loved to tell and listen of their exploits. That this day was another chapter in the Celtic Cycle.

One now knew what it really meant to be Irish!

Between the incredible keeping, heroic defense, ghosts and prayers of Irishmen saying the rosary that day all around the world (I was one!), Ireland prevailed and the biggest party the Nation had seen since the days of Brian Boru erupted in every town, village & hamlet that glorious June Evening.

Political allegiances were momentarily put aside. Hatchets were temporarily buried and feuds forgotten as warring neighbors, couples, children, friend & foe alike happily joined together in a wonderful spontaneous celebration.

One of those rare moments of joyous unifying synchronicity that a nation hardly ever experiences, happened to us that day.

To the bemused reader, it wasn’t simply a football match to us Irish. It went way beyond that. To call it a cultural phenomenon would not be profound! It would be too simplistic. It was the Colonizers getting their come-uppance from the “natives” in a most overt, dramatic and satisfyingly humiliating way. “Croppy” was not lying down anymore!

The glee and sheer delight of our victory was particularly sweet at the remembrance of our history. Waves of such remembrance simply flooded our consciousness at that precise moment, intensely emotional and fulfilling all in that same moment.

It wasn’t aimed at the ordinary Englishman in the street just at that ordinary Englishman’s Hierarchy. The establishment that was represented by anybody, in position of power and influence whether it be the FA or 10 Downing Street. To us at that juncture in time it was all the same.

It was the same Hierarchy that had rode roughshod over us for centuries. It was the same Hierarchy that had destroyed our culture, killed, starved and exiled our people over the centuries preceding, who we now cocked a smug grin at and reveled in their discomfort.

As I sat with my lifelong pals savouring the moment with a pint of "Uncle Arthur", my mind wondered how Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill & Paddy Armstrong of the "Guildford 4" felt at this moment. I thought of the Birmingham 6 and the McGuire family who were also at that time wrongly incarcerated in British prisons after being stitched up by that same Hierarchy. I remember sincerely hoping that the lads felt the same sheer ecstasy we were experiencing. I am sure it was a euphoric moment too for all Irishmen in that system.

With that final whistle. Almost at once our inherent inferiority complex to our arrogant neighbor vanished like the morning dew. The “tipping the hat” psyche replaced by a defiant two fingered salute that only denizens of the Western Isles of Europe truly know the meaning of.

Paradoxically or maybe in hindsight, rather not. It was the moment, a true, mature friendship began to finally materialize between Ireland and England. Rejoicing in at last, the unique heritage that both peoples share. The straitjacket of our common and often terrible history had finally been wrenched off........for now!

In that afternoon, I would wager Modern Ireland truly was born. The Celtic Tiger roared into the world when that final whistle blew. Defiant & proud, holding our heads up to the sun. We were, as the old song declares, a nation once again.

© deadlydesh ravenspoint 2005