Irish slang

Cake wrapped

The other day I overheard someone say, “Ugh, Grafton Street is so full of chuggers!”


For a few minutes I pondered what a chugger could be. Someone who drinks liquids very quickly? A clever word for a chubby bugger? Wrong on both counts. A chugger is a “charity mugger,” said my Irish friend. Of course that explanation opened up a whole new world of questions. A charity mugger? Is this someone who robs people and then gives the stolen goods to the poor?

Wrong again. A charity mugger is a student or adult volunteer who aggressively asks you to sign their petition for the whales/orphans/PETA/Greenpeace/etc. You know, the seemingly well-meaning volunteer who, when you politely decline his invitation to sign whatever’s on his clipboard continues to chase you down the street, loudly spouting off all the reasons why you just NEED TO SIGN THE PETITION!



I feel incredibly lucky and grateful when I receive comments and emails from readers of this blog. When I started the blog 18 months ago I never thought the readership would extend beyond friends and family back home, so it’s always a thrill to get emails written by complete strangers from all over the world.

I get a lot of emails from Americans who have recently moved here and are looking for advice on how to adjust to their new lives in Ireland. They range from super excited to completely freaked out (“I just realized I don’t know ANYONE here!?” wrote one) and they always remind me of what I went through when I first landed in Ireland. Recently a DCU graduate student wrote to ask me where she could buy basic things like towels, bedding and a few kitchen items. Having only been here a few days, she realized she had no idea where to go for such items. It made me recall a time where I, too, was  utterly clueless about where to shop and how to get there and how to go about paying for it once all of the above was accomplished.


door hook 

Amazing what havoc this little piece of hardware can wreck!

I don’t embarrass easily. When I was 12 years old, I was the unsuspecting victim of a terribly random incident so deeply humiliating that it was just all uphill from there.

It was after recess (that’s the mid-morning break during the school day) and everyone was running back into the classroom, eager to get into their seats before the second bell rang. I, too, was in a hurry – I was lagging behind for whatever reason and realized I was only seconds away from that final bell. I first scampered into the coatroom, which was a walk-in closet inside the classroom, to hang up my jacket. I then turned quickly and sprinted toward my desk, but something suddenly and quite violently yanked me back. What happened was the bolt fixture (see photo above) had fishhooked the little gap between my blouse buttons and due to my rapid speed had literally ripped the shirt completely off my back. My arms actually flung back from the force – imagine Michael Phelps doing the backstroke – and within a split second I was standing there in my training bra in front of the ENTIRE class of students, some of whom were hit in the face by flying buttons. It was rock bottom as far as embarrassing childhood moments go.


Yolks were used to make this

As I’ve mentioned before, there are few nationalities in the world more creative in the verbal insults department than the Irish. This knack for clever verbiage also applies to slang words and phrases, so I wanted to share a few of my favorites along with my misunderstandings of them.

Phrase: Cop on
What I Thought It Meant: Something to do with the police or “garda” as they say here, as “cop” is what we call the police in America.
Meaning: Kind of the same as “get with it.” If someone is telling you to “cop on,” they want you to realize something already. Typically used as a verb (“Cop on, you stupid cow!”) it can also be used as a noun, which I find hilarious.
Best Use I’ve Heard so Far: “Daddy can’t buy you cop on!”

Word: Jeggings
What I Thought It Meant: When I first saw a sign that said “Jeggings” in a storefront, I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what this meant.
Meaning: These are a cross between jeans and leggings, known back in the states as “jean leggings.” In typical Irish tradition where everything is shortened into a nickname or catchphrase, they are jeggings. Imagine if J-Lo was instead Jopez or instead of “chillax” (a  way of combining “chill” and “relax”) we said “relachill.” It just doesn’t sound right nor does it glide off the tongue the way good nicknames should. Jeggings? Can you think of a word that sounds more jarring (besides the word jarring, that is)?
Verdict: Though the name leaves much to be desired, I love jeggings. Finally I can tuck my jeans into my boots without them bunching up around the knees. So for this reason, and this reason only, I will forgive the God-awful name.


Mark of shame on my beloved blue car…

Just when you think things are going well, Life has a way of giving you a paper cut topped with a handful of salt and vinegar crisps. And if Life is feeling especially frisky, it will also toss your toast on the floor, jam-side down, before dropping a gigantic piano on your head.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started off well enough: it was only partly cloudy and relatively temperate, and I had a productive morning sending pitches out to a few magazines. I did the dishes, straightened up the apartment and readied myself for a workout. That’s when things took an ominous turn. As I pulled out of the parking garage to go to the gym, a man pulled his car nose-to-nose with mine, trying to get into the parking garage. Since I was already 90% out of the one-lane driveway, I stood my ground as it was HIS responsibility to back up and let me out. He stayed put, and started honking obnoxiously and waving at me to move back into the garage. Flustered, I threw the car into reverse and heard the most God-awful sound as my car scraped the concrete wall of my parking space.  Feck!

Nothing like a hot meal after a bad day

The guy, in all his douchebaggery, failed to notice and just drove into his space with nary a comment or care in the world. I was too angry to get out of the car; though he pressured me and was all-around f*ckchop, technically it was my fault. I drove to the gym, got out of the car and inspected the damage. Two panels, scraped to sh*t and a nice, big dent near the tire. GREAT.


Mr. Lepruchaun says: “Open yer ears!” 

I’m finding that it’s not always good practice to pretend I understand what someone is saying even when I do not. It’s just that I feel like an idiot when I have to ask someone to repeat themselves again and again because I can’t make sense of their Irish accent. Sometimes it’s just easier to nod my head and act like I know what the person is talking about.

Case in point: Recently I was at the pub with a group of friends. One guy at the table told a sexual joke (half of which I couldn’t even hear). A few minutes later, my friend turned to me and asked me a question. To me, it sounded like this:

 “[blah blah blah blah blah blah] hung?”

The only word I understood from his whole sentence was “hung,” which was clearly a reference to the other guy’s tasteless joke, so I just made a face at him and ignored his question. He pressed on.

“[blah blah blah blah blah blah] hung?”

Now he was just being cheeky, I thought. “F*ck off!” I said, laughing. He looked at me, confused. This time he leaned over and spoke louder.


I realized then he was referring to some bathroom towel racks I had purchased the previous week. He’d driven me to the hardware store in search of them, hence his interest.

“Oh, uh…no,” I responded, red-faced.

Lesson learned: It’s better to ask than to assume, and it’s not always easy being an American in Ireland!

Dislike: Lack of variety on television…

It’s been a little over one month since my arrival to Drogheda and I’m starting to settle and adjust to my new environment. Things that I thought I’d never get used to, like driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car, is now second nature. I use my laser card for nearly all my purchases, drink tea about 3-5 times a day and have become quite adept at hanging an entire load of laundry on one clothes horse.


There are some things, however, that I still have a hard time with. And while I realize the following may make me sound a bit like an entitled, spoiled American, I’m just being honest. So, without any further ado, here are some things that drive me pretty nuts:


Your little bed!

Welcome to the world, Little Shamrock (I don’t know your name yet, sorry!). I was just thinking today that we are both new to this place that is now your home. I guess the only major difference is that you’ve been here for about an hour, and I’ve been here a month today. So, let me just say from experience that you are a very lucky little baby to be born Irish in Ireland, because – as I have witnessed myself – you lot are quite special.

I wonder what kind of little Irish boy you will grow into; right now you are just a newborn and it’s overwhelming to think of all the different ways you’ll grow and change over the years. Will your hair be blonde, like your mother’s? Or dark brown like your daddy’s? Maybe you’ll develop a love of cars, just like your daddy (though I’m not sure how much more car stuff your mom can handle!), or perhaps you’ll cultivate a taste for sweets like your mammy. You’ll probably earn a nickname or two over the next several years…your mom used to call everyone “Chicken” as a term of endearment, and I’m willing to bet she’ll be calling you all sorts of cute names. She’s really sweet and motherly like that.


In Ireland, these cookies are “biscuits.”

The other day, my friend Sinead was telling me about a peculiar town in England that we need to go visit. She said it was a small community full of very strange people.

“They have no teets!” she said.

What???  No teets!? I imagined a town of nipple-less women, walking down the street in slow motion like zombies in a horror film. Was there something in the water that caused this deformity?  How did they feed their newborn babies?  I surmised that bra sales in this region must be low, perhaps even non-existent.

“Why don’t they have breasts?” I asked, still trying to wrap my brain around this bizarre phenomenon.

“What? No, they have no TEET!” she said again, pointing to her mouth. 

Ohhhhhh. Teeth. Right.