What’s the craic? We’re back again with some of the most confusing Irish slang terms we could find! (Missed part 1? Catch up here!)
Note: Just like in America, all slang presented below is regional. And just like America, it's difficult to figure out exactly where a singular word originates from when you're not living there. For this reason, regional information hasn't been included with this post.
As you may remember from Part 1, the term craic (crack) essentially means fun, and ninety is a way to measure said craic. However, it isn’t a sliding scale. If the craic is great, it’s ninety—but it’s never just eighty or any other number. Believed to be popularized by a song (recorded by multiple Irish artists) in the 1960s called “The Craic was Ninety in the Isle of Man.”
Abbreviated from “What’s the story, horse?” , it’s a quick way to ask someone “What’s up?” or, more literally: “What’s the story?” As one explanation put it: “Horse refers to a friend, not an actual horse.” Good to know the Irish aren’t expecting every equine they see to be Mr. Ed.
Essentially, broken beyond repair, just—really, very messed up. This term popped up in the 1930s with no real known origin. (Though some guess it comes from the Scottish slang banjoed, which means to be hit as hard as possible. Not too far off—we’d say wrecked for both!)
This is essentially the word queer (as in odd) with an Irish accent (i.e. kware,) but has come to mean it in a positive way: as in very or wonderful, great, etc. It can be “it’s quare windy today,” but you could also describe your spouse as “the quare one.” It was perhaps popularized by Irish playwright Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow (1954,) but was definitely common parlance before then!
There’s so many names for this item, it’s not surprising the Irish have their own. We might say: soda, soft drink, coke, or the most controversial: pop. Essentially: any sugary, fizzy, non-alcoholic drink! (Older generations tend to associate this term with 7UP specifically—so it’s safest to be a little more specific.) This term has most likely held on as Ireland is thought to be the birthplace of soda’s predecessor, mineral water, as early as the 1700s!
One of the sillier sounding slang terms (there’s no way your kids aren’t going to giggle if you teach them this one,) this simply means a short (or, as the Irish would say, wee) walk.
You made a hames of it
This one’s probably easy to guess: you messed it up. Usually used in a relatively light-hearted manner (think of a dad throwing up his hands and sighing before fixing it himself,) it stems from Ireland’s long-standing agrarian culture. Hames is literally a curved piece of iron or wood on the collar of a draught horse—so if you’ve put it on incorrectly, you’ve made a hames of it.
Pronounced wayne, any mom out there can guess what this means! While the word wean makes our American brains think about weaning a baby, this term is used for children of many ages—and often by parents even when their kids aren’t truly weans anymore.
Go for the messages/Do the messages
No, it doesn’t mean checking your email, but is rather more akin to doing the shopping or more generally, errands. The term is thought to derive from the time where part of one’s errands would be checking for literal messages or packages at your centralized post office (no home delivery from Amazon Prime in those days!) The GPO, founded in England in the 1600s, was hugely influential and changed Irish culture forever by opening up the world to the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle!
This post is part of a series. Check out our last Modern Irish Culture post, with some kid-friendly Irish movie recommendations, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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