Sunday 25 September 2016


Dort-speak is killing off our distinctive accents and expressions, a UCD professor said this week. Kim Bielenberg reports

Published 09/02/2008 | 00:00

Pundits have been known to remark when commenting on the spurious claims of politicians that they would promise DART trains to Dingle.

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The train which travels along Dublin's posh Gold Coast is unlikely to go to Dingle in the near future, but the mangled, strangulated accent from the South County known as Dort-speak is already there.

Yer man, Professor Terry Dolan, the leading authority on Hiberno-English in Ireland, is after saying that our traditional Irish way of talking English is banjaxed.

Fewer shoppers go to "get messages'' (groceries); we may no longer "make a hames'' of a job (make a mess); and the population is no longer going out to get "scuttered'' (drunk).

The Professor of English at UCD is "vexed''. He says our distinctive way of way talking English, which is heavily influenced by Irish and includes archaic English terms, is fast being replaced by a dumbed-down, homogenised, middle class accent.

Like Estuary English, the Beckhamesque déclassé way of talking that spread all over Southern England, Dort-speak is now threatening to infect the language in every corner of the country.

"I was in a cafe in Roscommon and I heard young women talking like they were in Dublin 4,'' says Professor Dolan, who compiles the Dictionary of Hiberno-English. "It is mostly women who are spreading it, because they think it is smarter.''

Encouraged by soap operas, American TV, text speak, the internet and the intonation favoured by some OAR-T-E presenters -- not to mention fictional couple Dan 'n' Becs -- a vast segment of the population has started to speak like a Yummy Drummy (an Ugg-booted airhead who hangs around the South County paradise, the Dundrum Shopping Centre).

Professor Dolan says the growing accent is one part Irish, one part unsuccessful imitation of a posh English Sloane Ranger accent, and one part American.

Growing up in Ireland, it is easy to take the distinctive Irish way of talking for granted. In other countries, English speakers do not tend to refer to soft drinks as "minerals''; they do not refer to a loaf of bread as a "sliced pan''; and they certainly do not put "delph'' in their cupboards.

And of course, generous free-spending types are not "flaithiulach'' with their cheque books.

Even though English has been the dominant language here for centuries, until recently many people have clung on to the grammar of the Irish language.

Expressions such as "I'm after eating my dinner'' and "I do be here every day'' are taken directly from Irish.

In common with America and other former British outposts, Ireland is affected by a linguistic phenomenon known as "colonial lag''. Ways of talking that disappeared in England centuries ago have survived here. At least, until now.

Truant children children no longer "mitch'' off school in England, but the Shakespearean word continues to be used here. "Tis'' is still used for "It is'' and "ye'' is still common in the countryside for "You''. But these idiosyncrasies are now being ironed out.

Professor Dolan says that in recent years we have started to adopt a flatter, less colourful language.

Hiberno-English is suffering a similar fate to the Irish language, which declined rapidly in the 19th century.

"People stopped speaking Irish, because speaking English was seen as the way to get ahead," he says. "The same is now happening with Hiberno-English. People are taking on the Dublin 4 accent rather than their local accent, because it is seen as the way to get ahead. Our Irish way of speaking is considered backward. That is why so many people now talk about pawking their caw.''

The term Dort-speak was actually first coined by Kevin Myers in the mid-1990s. He described it as a middle-class Irish accent "overlaid by an Anglo-American argot'', peppered with words like "kyool'', "loike'', and "know what I mean''.

Having originated in South County Dublin, Dort-speak has spread like an out-of-control Winter vomiting bug.

The effects of Dortification can be heard most strongly in counties in Leinster close to Dublin. Local accents have been swept away by suburban invaders. The Kildare accent, typified by Christy Moore, is just one of the accents that is in danger of becoming extinct.

Craic, a word apparently used by every visiting English hack to describe our supposed sense of fun, is regarded by some as the quintessential Hiberno-Irish word. But Professor Dolan regards it as an abomination.

"English people think it is Irish, but is actually an old English word and there is no reason why it should be spelt in Irish.''

Fortunately, Dortification has not yet taken over every pocket of the country.

While the Irish use of language may be becoming more uniform as a result of the rise of television and other modern communications, local words and ways of speaking have survived and even thrived in some areas of the country. And some new expressions have been added.

Dubs hail a "Joe Maxi'' (taxi) in Dublin, Cork people still go for a "bazzer'' (haircut), and "sucking diesel'' is a popular term for making progress in the countryside. In Cavan they still have a "Bachelor's Button'', a nail used to hold together articles of clothing in place of a button.

Nowhere is the language more colourful than Tuam, Co Galway, a town remarkable for its distinctive vocabulary. You can still hear people referring to a woman as a "tome feek''. In Tuamspeak, a house is a "cane", splendid is "peach'', and local people have been known to call a church a "pineapple''.

Sure, why do they call a church a pineapple, at all? As they used to say in Wexford, "Don't ax me why.''

UCD is currently hosting a series of public lectures on Hiberno-English (

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