Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

Dara Ó Briain recently posted this video on Twitter to show just how different the Irish and British are in spite of a couple of centuries of speaking the same language.

In the early days of living together, I asked Ang to put the messages in the press. While simultaneously trying to figure out when I’d installed a device for receiving emails into an iron and dialling NHS Direct to get an ambulance sent out she didn’t realise that her first forays into Hiberno-English were occurring. Nowadays things are regularly grand in our house – to be sure things are rarely things any more, but yokes – and the expletive of choice is feck.

In return I’ve started saying “Ta ra!” and Tidy, which sound quite daft in a Dublin accent.

At least I didn’t mention the Immersion.

“I’ll plant a mango tree in your mother’s posterior and copulate with your sister in the shade”

Untranslatable Pun
Image by stallkerl via Flickr

Awesome Reddit thread on untranslatable phrases from languages other than English. The Afrikaans ones are particularly great:


Which translates to “Saltcock”, implying that they have one leg in England, one leg in South Africa, and their dick is dangling in the ocean.

Some Irish Gaelic ones:

  • Scaoil amach do bhoibilín – Go for it (literally: set your glans free).
  • Is dócha nach bhfuil seans ar bith ann – Would sir/madam like to engage in a copulatory ritual (literally: I suppose there’s no chance of it?)
  • Ag deanamh neamhshuim – To engage in the act of excretion (literally: making bad jam)

Sidenote: Scaoil Amach an Bobailín was an Irish language youth show that ran from 1990 to 1993. Someone at RTÉ missed out on the literal translation.

(via Waxy Links)

Anois is Aris

A sign in Irish in County Galway

The QI Elves on Twitter opened a can of worms when they mentioned that the Irish language has no words for “Yes” or “No”. Dozens of tweets later saying that there are “Tá” and “Níl” or “‘Sea” and “Ní hea”, the Elves threw their hands up in the air and decided to leave the Irish alone.

While, strictly speaking, it is true that there are no words for “Yes” and “No”, in the Irish language to answer in the affirmative or negative, one repeats the verb of the asked question. For example, if one asks “Are you going to the cinema?” (An bhfuil tú ag dul go dtí an picturlann?) the answer is either “I am” (Tá mé) or “I am not” (Níl má).

This happens even when Irish people speak in English, and is part of the charm of Hiberno-English that everyone seems to love.