On St. Patrick's Day: Try Irish Sayings and Slang To Have 'Craic' When You Do

Jane Lasky's picture

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, a happy holiday when traditional Irish sayings go well with a cold Guinness while typical Irish slang gets you in synch with the rabble-rousering revelers who surround you.

After all, St. Patrick's Day is more than just a steaming bowl of beef stew after which time everyone gathers at the local pub. And so, before getting too soused to recall what was said and then what was done, certain typical sayings could come in handy.

One that may be used as a good St. Patrick's Day toast is, "May you live to be a hundred years with one extra year to repent," while another to offer that puts this celebration right is, "As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction."

And if that doesn't give you a giggle, try saying something more sincere, like, "May the roof above us never fall in and may we friends gathered below never fall out."

Another saying to share on this day that comes around every March 17 is, "May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live."

Beyond these typical Irish sayings easily shared on St. Patrick's Day, typical Irish slang may also come in handy.

This did for Los Angeles-based teacher Kevin Moran, who went to the mother land for the holiday and who became confused while celebrating his heritage in and around Dublin.

Even though Moran is Irish-American, he still became confused with certain expressions that didn't always translate, at least not at first.

During his trip across he pond, Kevin inquired of a Dublin taxi driver, "How are you?"

The answer back, delivered in full-on brogue, was, "I am under the water."

Mister Moran had no idea what that meant so he asked for a clarification -- and he received one. The taxi driver told Kevin, "I'm not drinking because I can't. My liver is shot."

To be sure, local euphemisms heard in Ireland can be confusing, but once learned, these terms are great to pull out and use during St. Patrick's Day while hobnobbing in your local pub because there, bragging rights earned while proving a genuine gift for gab might just have someone buying you a round or two.

One this writer came across was learned during a business trip to Ireland the first night there. Ever the eavesdropper, I overheard what I perceived as a shady interchange when one Irish woman asked another, "How's the craic (pronounced crack)?

"Just wonderful," she replied
This short exchange was shocking to me as all I could think of was that, during a public gathering, this pair of respectable looking ladies seemed to openly discussing trying out a harsh street drug. Sensing my concern, the pair laughed before explaining to this out-of-tune American that all they were doing was making pleasant small talk.

One of the women said to me, "I asked my friend how she is doing. What I said was very innocent, really!" Then she told me that craic is a Gaelic word and, although there is no exact English translation, the closest word meaning the same is simply the word “fun.”

Talk about being relieved.

After that, we became a trio, swapping slang expressions with each other from both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, my interest was in the ones used in Ireland, special ways in which to throw around certain words that I could use with great authority come St. Patrick's Day.

That said, some expressions learned on a working trip to the lush Emerald Isle have come in handy every so often, and especially every March 17.

One common Irish query, "How she cuttin'?" is just a casual way of asking how life is going, while the term "in the nip" means "in the nude" in Ireland.

And, if you hear someone calling another person "a Jackeen," know that this is a derogatory moniker used to describe a person from Dublin. So, to be safe and not offensive, don't repeat what you just read.

That said, if you hear someone say, "I am going to the jacks," realize that the person speaking means he or she is off to the restroom and when someone says a place is "jammers," that person means that the spot in which you are standing or sitting is very, very crowded--which should be evident anyway.

As for a drinking term, that may come in handy while in the pub on St Patrick's Day, keep in mind that a "jar" is simply a pint of beer or stout.
Also, if you're hanging around and someone tells you to "get up the yard," get out of that person's way, and fast, because this is the Irish way ---in slang terms--to tell someone to get lost.

Finally, my favorite expression learned during that memorable business trip to Dublin is "Janey Mack!" To be sure, by using these two words that don't seem to make any sense to the typical American, know that you'll be conveying that something currently happening is utterly unbelievable.

And so, when an American might say "Wow!" the Irish could handily substitute "Janey Mack!" to get his or her wonderment across.

Who knew?

Now I do. And with that knowledge, I finally found a terrific way to throw my name around on St. Patrick's Day--and you can too.

That said, if that doesn't seem to fit into the conversation and if all else fails, simply say, "Erin go bragh!" (or "Ireland forever") on this green holiday that comes around every March 17 no matter where in the world you happen to be. No doubt, if you don't say that, someone else will. And that's a promise.

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