A Guide to Irish phrases

LIKE every nation, the Irish have developed a few words and phrases that can create confusion for visitors not familiar with them.

Topping the list for confusion is the word ‘craic’. This one word and Irish people’s obsessive pursuit of “good craic” or “a bit of craic”, can leave tourists worrying if they’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd.

Craic is all about fun and enjoyment, and nothing to do with narcotics — although explaining that can sometimes be trickier than you’d imagine.

So if someone asks “Are you having the craic?” they want to know if you’re enjoying yourself, not indulging in illicit drug use.

‘Grand’ is another frequently used colloquialism. For most English-speakers the word triggers images of luxury of aristocratic proportions. For the Irish ‘grand’ usually means ‘alright’ or ‘okay’. Although context can be everything.

There are many ‘grand’ hotels around the country, and few would have a five-star rating.

The British established some of the first lunatic asylums in the world in Ireland, and to this day the Irish people play fast and loose with the word ‘mad’.

While in certain contexts, ‘mad’ will hold its traditional meaning of being ‘crazy’, intonation and phrasing can be key to its meaning in other circumstances.

“It’s mad craic”, translates as “it’s great”.

The weather is always a big talking point for the Irish, and regardless of what time of year you’re visiting there’s a good chance you’ll experience what is known as “a soft day”. This descriptor may trigger visions of blue skies and moderately warm temperatures, but don’t be fooled. For the Irish, a soft day is one where a persistent yet gentle drizzle falls from the sky creating a mist that can travel by osmosis through layers of waterproof clothing.

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