Most of us have some little phrases and expressions that are pretty much exclusive, or certainly most commonly used within our own regions of the UK. Northern Ireland is no exception, not only do we have expressions that seem to be exclusive to the North of Ireland, but within this tiny country we have expressions that are also exclusive to counties and even towns!
My English friends often pull my leg about needing a new dictionary to understand me, especially when we are in full banter mode and I forget that I am talking to people who have no idea what he’s a quare geg means!
We get a few million tourists here every year and I’m sure some of them are completely flummoxed by some of the things they hear. We also have the European city of culture for 2013, so I suspect we may get a few more visitors than normal.
So here it is, my understand the Northern Irish slang dictionary. Some of the expressions do come from our Scottish ancestors, so any Scots out there will probably recognise a few.
Norn Iron – Northern Ireland
Aye – Yes
Wee – small
Those were the more obvious ones – now for the real gems!
Away On – I don’t believe you. (ah get away on outta that)
Bake – Bake in this instance means face (He’ll get a slap in the Bake)
Barge – To tell someone off (My mammys barging because I came home late)
Blootered – very drunk (Look at the state of yer man, he’s blootered)
Boggin – rotten, horrible or dirty (Look at the state of those shoes they’re boggin)
Bout Ye, shortened form of what about you - how are you? (Alright Jimmy, Bout Ye?)
Clod – throw (they were clodding stones)
Dander – a walk (I’m away for a wee dander)
Dead on – ok, alright – (Bout Ye? answer… Dead on)
Eat the Head/Face off – To give a good telling off (My Ma will eat the face off me for breaking that)
Face like a Lurgan Spade – Means having a big sad dreary face. (What’s wrong with yer man, he’s got a face like a Lurgan spade)
Faffin About – taking too long to do something (come on we’re late, stop faffin about)
Ganch or Ganching – Someone who like to talk a lot (Don’t stop with her, she’ll keep you ganching for ages)
Geg - Geg is joke, so he’s a real joke, usually sarcastic, not normally meant as a compliment for comedy genius ( He’s a quare Geg)
Give my Head Peace – Be quiet, give it a rest, shut up! (Will you lot give my head peace)
Gurning - somebody who moans all the time, also can be used instead of saying crying – she’s gurning! (She’s never done gurning that one)
Happed Up – wrapped up warmly (She’s all happed up for the snow)
Head the Ball – A silly person, (He’s a head the Ball) (Yer man’s a Head the Ball)
Houl yer Wheest – be quiet, shut up, stop talking (Houl yer wheest a minute, I’m trying to hear the news)
Isnay – complete slang for isn’t (I can’t come out she isnay well)
Jammy – sneaky/lucky (He won the lottery the jammy sod)
Keep Dick – Keep a look out (normally for the police) when you are up to no good (you go through the window and I’ll keep dick!)
Lashin – Heavy rain (It’s lashin out there)
Lethal – Brilliant (That song is lethal)
Marley – relates to marbles, but used as an insult (your heads a Marley) full of marbles
Messages – shopping, normally groceries. (I’m away to Tesco to get my messages)
Mucker – mate, friend -(Bout Ye Mucker?)
Neb – nose (keep your neb out of my business)
Notion – fondness/crush (she’s got a wee notion of yer man over there)
Oul – Old (How’s the Oul doll doing)
Out on the rip/tear - going out to get drunk (he’s away out on the rip) (he’s out on the tear)
Pachal (the ch is pronounced as in loch) – being clumsy, sluggish (Look at him trying to heave himself up off the sofa, he’s a right Pachal)
Piggin – filthy (those clothes need washed now they’re piggin)
Quare – used to emphasise the quality or quantity – He’s quare and lucky (he’s really lucky)
Ragin – very angry (I can’t believe that happened, I’m ragin) very often accompanied by the word pure (I’m pure ragin)
Rakin – mucking around, running around (the children were rakin round the garden)
Scunnered – fed up or annoyed about something (Turn the tv over I’m scunnered watching this)
Scundered – embarrassed (I had my skirt tucked into my knickers in front of the whole bar, I was totally scundered)
Skelp – smack or slap (Any more of that attitude and you’ll get a good skelp)
Targe – a battleaxe of a person (She’s an oul Targe)
Twig – understand (it took a while for Jimmy to Twig on to what was happening)
Up the Bann in a Bubble – Do you think I was born yesterday. (Do you think I came up the Bann in a Bubble) the Bann being the longest river in Norn Iron.
Visog – Face (I need to wash my Visog before I go out)
Wains – children (my wains are gurning)
Wind your neck in – wise up, stop being annoying, shut up (oh will you just wind your neck in)
Wringin – soaking wet (he jumped in the puddles and now his socks are wringin)
Wile – puts emphasis on the situation (that’s wile expensive – that’s very expensive) on hearing bad news the response can be (ah that’s wile)meaning that’s terrible.
Wummen – Woman (Look at the state of yer wummen)
There are hundreds if not thousands more of these expressions, there are some that even I don’t understand when I hear them, because they come from a different region to me. Hopefully these will give you a little insight into the colourful language that makes up Northern Ireland. Don’t be alarmed though, our entire conversations are not made up of expressions like these, we may just drop the odd one in to catch you off guard!
Now for a few of our unusual place names.
Ahoghill - Not pronounced – A Hog Hill but – A Haugh ill. The gh is quite difficult for non celts, it’s a sort of awk sound but almost phlegmy, if you know what I mean.
Bangor – Not pronounced like the Welsh version, we say Banger, not like the sausage or the clapped out car, but Bang grr.
Craigavon – Not like the Avon lady, but CraigAhhvon
Doagh – Sounds a bit like Doak, but again with the phlegmy gh
Londonderry/Derry – not a pronunciation, but an explanation. This is the European City of Culture for 2013, you will hear it referred to both names. The majority(but not all) of Northern Irish people who consider themselves British call the city Londonderry. Those who consider their nationality as Irish tend to call the city Derry, opting to drop the London from the title. It’s far too political to get into the whole whys of this, but normally as a tourist you won’t have any problems using either name. We in Norn Iron also refer to the city as “The Maiden City” – it is one of the few walled cities in European that has never had its fortifications breached. It is also affectionately known as Stroke City – because those wanting to be politically correct, especially on television will say Derry stroke Londonderry – so the Northern Irish created the expression Stroke City.
Lough Neagh – The largest fresh water lake in the British Isles. Pronounced with the phlegmy gh ending again! not Loch like the Scottish equivalents. Neagh is as the horse Neigh!
Macosquin – I doubt anyone will actually be visiting here and I was tempted to not put a pronunciation, as it does make me giggle to hear people say this. Pronounced Ma-Cos-Kin, not Macos quin!
Portavogie – Port-a-vogue-ie
Portglenone – Port-len-own
Roughfort – Ruffert
Swatragh – Swat Ra
There are of course more places with names that don’t sound as they look, my advice – just don’t go there! No seriously, if you find yourself in Northern Ireland looking for a place that you have no idea what it’s actually called ask a local for help. They may keep you “ganching” for ages, but they will help you with pronunciation and directions and probably give you a gem or two of valuable tips that the guide books don’t. We may fight a lot with each other, but to everybody else we are a right friendly bunch
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