Thursday 23 May 2019

The Divil's Dictionary: From 'Notions' to 'The Pain' - the words and phrases that capture the Irish way of life

Ahead of the release of a new book of 'Brexitisms', Darragh McManus compiles some definitions of our own that capture the Irish way of life

Gargle: On the lash in The Snapper
Gargle: On the lash in The Snapper
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The ongoing Brexit snafu has introduced a bucket-load of buzzwords and neologisms to English (including, of course, 'Brexit' itself). Hard/soft Brexit, regrexit, Italexit, remoaners, strong and stable, Article 50, Brexit means Brexit, regulatory alignment, Brexiteer: just some of the many terms tossed about by politicians and commentators struggling to make sense of a chaotic situation.

Now, a year after Article 50's triggering, a new book satirises the whole thing: Johnson's Brexit Dictionary (named for legendary lexicographer Samuel, not scarecrow-haired walking-punchline Boris). Harry Eyres' and George Myerson's "A to Z of What Brexit Really Means" takes a wry look at the jargon, waffle and linguistic obfuscation, both real and imagined.

The book comes in a cute little hardback, complete with two postcards. Stephen Fry calls it "a delight"; we call it witty, biting and filled with amusing definitions in a cod-Johnsonian style.

Inspired by this and similar works - Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, Flaubert's Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues - we decided to look inwards, to capture modern Irish life and speech through some definitions of our own. Call it The Divil's Dictionary…


MAM: rural word for Mother.

MAMMY: rural word for Mother, generally preferred by easy-going baby-men who still have her cook 'the dinner' every Sunday.

That Irish culinary delicacy, the Tayto crisp sandwich
That Irish culinary delicacy, the Tayto crisp sandwich

MUM: aspirational middle-class word for Mother.

MOM: annoying mid-Atlantic word for Mother.

MOTHER: word for Mother only used by ever-dwindling tribe of Anglo-Irish horsey types.

THE BOSSMAN: married to Mammy.

HIMSELF: what Mammy calls The Bossman.

HERSELF: what The Bossman calls Mammy.

THAT PAIR: what their exasperated offspring call Mammy and The Bossman.

THE OLD MAN: Heineken-drinking SoCoDu tosser word for Father.

THE OLD LADE: northside Cork-dweller word for Mother.


NIPPY ENOUGH NOW: Arctic temperatures.

BITTER OUT: sub-Arctic temperatures.

FAIR COWLD: sub-sub-Arctic temperatures.

DAMP: flooded worse than Bangalore during monsoon season.

CLOUDY: better than usual weather.

HEATWAVE: two consecutive days of reasonable sunshine.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY: three consecutive days of reasonable sunshine.

WEATHER EVENT: the climatic condition formerly known as just 'the weather'.

YELLOW WARNING: take in the washing.

ORANGE WARNING: take in the trampoline.

RED WARNING: take in the car and garden shed.


SPUD: simultaneously national dish and cause of greatest disaster in Irish history; "you can't bate" a nice one with a bit of butter.

MEAT: staple foodstuff, cooked to within a micrometre of technically qualifying as incineration.

RARE MEAT: only consumed by the French and people with NOTIONS about themselves (see SOCIETY).

TAYTO SANDWICH: culinary delicacy.

GARGLE: alcoholic drink; also what you have to do the morning after to cover up the lingering olfactory remains on your breath.

LASH, on the: great night out.

FEED OF DRINK: linguistically paradoxical expediter of great night out.


THEY: nebulous grouping, of constantly shifting identity, who are to blame for everything wrong in your life e.g. "THEY should have fixed this", "THEY need to do something", "THEY don't care about the working man" etc, etc.

GOVERNMENT, the: core constituent of THEY.

OPPOSITION, the: coruscating critics of THEY until elected to office themselves, at which point, Borg-like, become part of THEY.

THE CAN: something which gets kicked down the road on a regular basis.

CUTE HOOR: schlocky, weaselly sort of character who is invariably neither cute nor working in the provision of sexual services for monetary gain.

PRO-LIFE: psychological malfunction, viz. an obsession with the minutiae of human gestation; frequently expressed in social media tirades.

PRO-CHOICE: psychological malfunction, viz. an obsession with the minutiae of human gestation; frequently expressed in social media tirades, plus chic jumpers with Repeal printed on the front.

BENIGN INDIFFERENCE: default state of mentally-normal 90pc in the middle.

THE PAIN: apparently shared by everyone.

TIRELESS CONSTITUENCY WORKER: useless gombeen (rural or urban) who never misses a local funeral but never contributes a jot to the national interest; often a CUTE HOOR.

FAR-RIGHT: how socialists describe moderates.

ANARCHISTS: how centre-rightists describe socialists.

THREAT TO DEMOCRACY: how they all describe each other.


GUYS: men who play rugby.

LADS: men who play soccer.

BOYS: men who play Gaelic games.

GIRLS: women who play any team sport.

PUTTING YOUR HAND UP: impressing selectors during training.

TRUCK AND TRAILER: incomprehensible rugby-speak favoured by smooth-voiced pundits on radio panel discussions.

SAVAGE BATTLE: obvious lie from GAA manager after team has just eviscerated opposition by 35 points

WRISTY: the ne plus ultra of hurlers.

Big Day Out Merchant, AKA BARSTOOLER, BANDWAGONER: only follows sport at top level, i.e. Sky Sports, Croke Park, Heineken Cup junkets to South of France etc; wouldn't be seen dead at local ground; despised by REAL FANS.

REAL FAN: grim-faced homunculus whose dedication to local team is as admirable as self-importance and humourlessness are off-putting.

SHAPER: idiot who always has the most expensive gear and most accurate impersonation of Cristiano Ronaldo's latest goal celebration, but can't actually play to save his life; often BIG DAY OUT MERCHANT.

COPPERS: Mecca of post-GAA match socialising.



CRAIC: divilment.

LOCK-IN: guarantor of serious amounts of craic/divilment, with added bonus of being allowed smoke inside like civilised human beings, with ashtrays and all.

THE BÉAL BOCHT, putting on: pretending to be less well-off than you are, for God knows what reason.

GRAND: all-purpose descriptor for everything from 'only alright' to 'perfectly well'.

YOKE: thing/object; alternatively, illegal pharmaceutical pill in pre- and post-millennium clubbing scene; alternatively, hideously unattractive person; alternatively, that under which the benighted Irish people must ever labour.


ON THE WAY OUT: dying.

IN A BAD WAY: dying.

DYING: not dying, just hungover.

BEGRUDGERY: highest state to which any Irish person can aspire.

NOTIONS: absolute worst thing any Irish person can ever be accused of having.

Irish Independent

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