If I was to say to you ‘spy thon latchy cove down the far Duke’ * would you have any idea what I was talking about?
How about ‘scran the pure heap, sham’ or ‘I’m going for a scobe with my blade’?
Welcome to the world of Northern Ireland slang. Or to be really specific, Ballymena slang! In Northern Ireland we have some amazing words and phrases that are immediatly recognisable depending on where you live. Belfast slang is different from country slang and certain words are unintelligable if you go a few miles down the road.
I live in Ballymena, which is thirteen miles from where I work in Bellaghy but I have said things that have left my work colleagues looking at me blankly. Similarly, when I was told to ‘clod’ something over to someone in the office, I had no idea they wanted me to throw it!
This is a place where a dander is a walk, a boat is a kiss, gutties are running shoes, a poke is an icecream and where going out for a wee run means taking a drive in your car. Generally round the north coast. On a Sunday.
In Seamus Heaney HomePlace, we have an installation called the ‘Word Hoard’ a floating mobile of colloquial words like hoke and glar that appealed to Heaney’s love of language and how language is deeply rooted in a place.
So, for St Patrick’s Day, here is my word hoard – a collection of my favourite Northern Irish phrases and sayings….and of course, their translations!
Craic – fun or banter, ‘what’s the craic?’ ‘That was great craic altogether’ ‘ sure the craic’s ninety’
Sham – a person or friend, ‘Alright sham?’
See also: mucker, bailer, doner, cove or yer man. Everyone in Northern Ireland is yer man. And it is assumed that you know him
Plastered – drunk, ‘Yer man was so plastered last night, the head’ll be hanging off him this morning’
See also: hammered, paraletic, wrote off, pished, rat-arsed, banjaxed, steaming, half-cut, bloottered.
Catch yourself on – be sensible
See also: Wind yer neck in, wise the bap, your head’s cut, away an’ shite, yer head’s a marley, yer head’s full of wee sweetie mice.
Thran – intentionally stubborn, ‘He’s so thran he wouldn’t go even if he wanted to’
Keep her lit – to keep going ‘keep her lit now, that’s great, we’re suckin’ diesel now’
See also: keep her between the hedges
Scran the heap – eat everything, ‘I am pure starving. I could scran the heap’
There is a pizza restaurant in Ballymena which has a pizza with all the toppings on it. It’s 18″ and is called, you guessed it, The Scran the Heap!
Fernenst – alongside, ‘yer man’s field is fernenst the road’
Go for a scobe – taking a drive around the town to see who you can see ‘I’ve the lend of the car, let’s go for a scobe round the circuit’
Eejit – an idiot ‘yer man’s a wile eejit’
See also: melter, head the ball
Neither use nor ornament – useless, ‘I’m so hungover, I’m neither use nor ornament to anyone’
Feel wick – to be embarrassed ‘Did you see what she did? Feel wick for her’
See also: take a reddner, scundered
Dead on – alright or ok. Very often used sarcastically, ‘aye right mate, dead on’.
Cowp – to fall over ‘I cowped over that wall and hit my head a quare gunk’
Footer – to tinker with ‘Is yer Da still footerin’ with that engine?’
Gulder – to shout ‘My ma was ragin’ and was gulderin’ at me’
Clarried – covered in, ‘I cowped in the ditch and now I’m clarried in muck’
See also: clabbered
Hoke (or hoak) – to rummage or look for ‘have a hoke in your bag and see if you have a tissue’
One of the main things to remember in Northern Ireland is that everything, regardless of size, is ‘wee’, sarcasm is used a lot and it takes us a while to say goodbye on the phone.
Do any of these phrases take your fancy? What about your own word hoards? I’d love to hear the words or phrases particular to your area!
* ‘Spy thon latchy cove down the far duke’ translates to ‘Do you see that tall man at the end of the road?’. Yes, really.