Thursday, 28 July 2011

17 - 'Aye, ye're funny, but yer face bates ye!'

Sunset in Delamont Park, near Killyleagh, Co. Down
February 20, 2010

There are some things we do a lot of in Northern Ireland - now, don't be gettin cheeky! I'm way ahead of you! No! One is we're always talkin' about the weather - that's because the weather here in Ireland is very unpredictable. It can be different every day, even several seasons in the one day!

Now, the other thing we do a lot of is slaggin' - we spend a lot a' time slaggin' one another off. Y'see, we can't stand the thought of anybody 'gettin' above themselves', so we feel we have to keep them in their place, so to speak. So we've managed ta gather up a right wheen a' expressions for this purpose - from a mild, 'Ye slabber, ye', which can actually be said with genuine affection and used as a friendly greeting - or it can just be used as a term of disgust.

Someone who is rude, or clumsy, might be referred to as, 'An ignorant gaunch'. Or he could be 'As awkward as a pig in a sheugh!' or even, 'As awkward as sin!' Whereas someone noisy, or vandalising, might be described as a 'hallion'.
'He would'n' give you daylight' or, 'She'd begrudge ye three ha'pence, so she wud', is a person who is tight with their money. Actually, the origin of the 'would'n' give you daylight' expression goes right back to Penal times, when the ruling (English) authorities taxed you on the size of the windows in your house - which would explain why the few remaining original Irish cottages have very small windows.

On the other hand, a person who is wasteful with their money and easily parted from it might be, 'Throwing it aroun' him like a man wi' no arms!' Or 'spendin' it like there's no tamorra!' Whereas, someone who stands there talkin' away while you're strugglin', might be asked, 'Ye could'n give us a bit ave a han' there, could ye, instead a' stan'in there wi' yer two arms the one length?'

Our humour is usually understated and often it's of the 'black' variety. I remember at the height of the Troubles, when, for a short time, Protestants were taking their political frustation out on the police force by burning their homes and, at the same time, there was a regular Ad on local TV encouraging us to burn more coal, whose slogan got adapted to, 'Join the RUC - and come home to a real fire.'
Again, at the height of the Troubles, I was working for a while as a lorry driver in Belfast (that's a truck driver in North America), for a factory which had a mixed workforce - Catholic and Protestant. Until my load was ready, I worked with the guys in the packing dept. and a regular dry comment on the morning's news would often be, 'See we got one a' yours last night!' This was just their way of trying to deal with an unacceptable situation.

On a lighter note, you'll often hear this sorta response from someone at the receiving end of some slaggin', 'Aye, yer funny, but yer face bates ye!'



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