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Derry Girl for a Semester, Chapter 2: In Which I Decipher Some Northern Irish Lingo

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Written by Charissa Roberson

Here in “Norn Iron,” everyone uses English—but that doesn’t mean we always speak the same language.  In the time I’ve been here, I’ve noticed a number of unfamiliar words and expressions and a couple that are genuinely confusing.  This week I’d like to share—and hopefully explain—a bit of the vernacular I’ve overheard.

The first word is probably the most common one.  “Craic,” pronounced “crack,” comes from the Irish language and simply means “fun.” Someone might walk up to you and ask, “What’s the craic?” just as we might ask, “What’s up?” This word can be confusing for Americans in particular, given the pronunciation.  Just imagine hearing this in a normal conversation: “That was some great craic (crack) last night!” Or, similarly, “Come over and we’ll have a bit of craic (crack).” Know that all they’re doing is inviting you to hang out!

Or there was a time someone said to me, “You know your man with the glasses and brown hair?” At first, I was baffled.  “My” man? Did they think I was interested in him? Only later did I realize that “your man” or “your woman” is merely a way to point out a certain individual.  So my friend was just saying, “You know that guy…?”

Another word that pops up all the time is “class.” This basically means “cool!” Someone might say, “You went skydiving? That’s class!” Or “Those are some class shoes you’re wearing.”  On another note, what would you say if you got a free meal or finished class early? The proper expression would be “happy days!” (“sweet!”).  And finally, the word “wee.” Technically, this means something small. But in Northern Ireland, people throw this adjective in front of any noun they feel like—and they do it a lot! So you could potentially have this sentence: “Just drive into the wee car park and push the wee button, and you’ll get a wee ticket for the day.”

Anyway, thanks for reading this wee column! Now go have some craic.  I hope your week is class, and if you enjoyed this lesson in Northern Irish lingo—happy days!

‘Til next time,

Charissa