Irish people are known for having a way with words. Sometimes it’s true and sometimes it isn’t, but either way we first need the words to have a chance of having our way with them. And some words, like amn’t and fooster, are distinctive and beloved features of the dialect.
The post title exaggerates a little: by words I mean words or usages, and some of the items below appear in other dialects too. But all are characteristic of Irish English (aka Hiberno-English), whether integral to its grammar or produced on occasions of unalloyed Irishness.
Each entry links to a blog post all about the word or usage in question, so click through if you want more detail on pronunciation, etymology, examples, variations, and so on. Off we go:
1. Plámás is an Irish word borrowed into Irish English meaning ‘empty flattery or wheedling’. It’s sometimes used witheringly in reference to political speech, for some reason.
2. Sleeveen is more strongly political, a scathing phonosemantic word for a sly, smooth-tongued operator who will say anything to advance their private agenda. Again it’s from Irish, anglicised from slíbhín.
3. Amn’t, short for am not, is a national grammatical treasure. Though criticised by prescriptivists, it’s common throughout Ireland, and, in interrogative syntax, is more logical than the standard but irregular aren’t I.
4. Notions in Ireland means either amorous behaviour, sexual inclinations; or pretentious affectation, ideas above one’s station. Pray that you interpret it right if you hear it.