Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 7 December, 2023

13 words you'll never hear outside of Ireland...

…unless they are being spoken by an Irish ex-pat, of course.

THE IRISH WAY with words is a complex one. We all know that our conversational tone has been hit with the Hiberno-English brush where the construction of sentences comes more from the Gaeilge tradition than an English grammar book. (“I’m after eating my dinner”; “Is that yourself there?”)

Or where whole phrases that otherwise make no sense at all, make perfect sense to an Irish person. (“Stop the lights!” – from Irish 1970s gameshow Quicksilver; “Sure, you know yourself”)

And then there are those words we have for everyday items that just don’t translate abroad at all. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they come originally from Irish language words. But in much the same way as we all used to collapse as kids at discovering that Americans called bum bags, ‘fanny packs’, there are some nouns that are truly singular to Hiberno-English.

Just try using them on your holiers this year:

13 words you'll never hear outside of Ireland...
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  • Zogabongs

    We have no idea what we called those bobbly antennae-on-a-hairband (see?!) before Zig and Zag came along on Dempsey's Den. Now they are zogabongs. From the planet Zog. (Pic: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)
  • Bobble/bobbin/go-go

    We were told on Twitter this week that a bobble is also recognised in England as a device to tie back one's hair. But do they also call it a 'bobbin'? And do they also use a 'go-go' for the same purpose? (Pic: Steven Depolo/Flickr)
  • Gargle

    Back at home in Blighty, Hugh Grant would have been having a pint of beer/ale. Here, in Dublin in 1995, he was having a gargle. Slightly bizarre choice of synonym for it as alcohol is never knowingly gargled in Ireland, and much more likely to be swallowed. (Pic: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)
  • Jacks. Going to the.

    Can anyone explain to us why going to the bathroom is sometimes referred to as going to "the jacks"? Anyone? (Pic: John Walton/EMPICS Sport/PA Wire)
  • Culchie

    Most of us even know that the word for a less than sophisticated country person comes from the village of Kiltimagh in Co Mayo. Would anyone else outside these shores know that? Even Louis Walsh fans? (a son of Kiltimagh). We doubt it. By the way, this chap is Paudie Clinton, King of the Culchies 2008. (Pic: James Horan/Photocall Ireland)
  • Rubber

    Don't be naughty. You know we mean the word used for eraser. Made of India Rubber of course. (Pic: CookieEater2009/Flickr)
  • Topper

    Companion to the aforementioned rubber. Pencil sharpener to you, sir. Also used by grandads to tell us we were great kids altogether. "Sure, you're a little topper." (Pic: Melanie Tata/Flickr)
  • Sliced pan

    Oh sure, everyone in the English-speaking world knows of sliced bread. But a 'sliced pan'? Only us and aul' Mr Brennan use that one. (Pic: Matt Burns/
  • Runners

    Others call them sneakers, trainers. We call them runners. Sometimes we even run in them. (Pic: Rebekah Downes/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
  • Minerals

    No doubt, visitors here get confused by the signs behind pub counters listing drink prices. "Minerals? What the hell are minerals?" Here, have a red lemonade. (Pic:
  • Toe-rag

    A very visceral description for someone who might be acting the maggot. Acting the maggot - there's another one. (Pic: Quinn Mattingly/Flickr)
  • Hotpress

    The place where you keep the hot water tank. Can also be the airing cupboard. (Pic: Charles Willgren/Flickr)
  • Yoke

    The all-purpose noun for something whose name escapes you. And to think people think the Irish have silver tongues... (Pic: urban_data/Flickr)
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