Thursday 28 July 2011

18 - 'Janey Mac! Would ye ever stop?'

O'Connell Bridge & O'Connell Street, Dublin, with Dublin Spire beyond
February 23, 2010

Now, usually I talk a lot about how we say, or do, things here in Northern Ireland. I thought maybe I'd take a break from that and travel across the border to Ireland's main city, Dublin. Apart from being in a different country and a major city with well over a million people, Dublin has quite a different accent and even way of talkin'.

You'll probably notice things, if yer drivin' from Northern Ireland down to Dublin, (as we 'd say up here - Dublin people think everyone comes up to Dublin, despite the fact that it's mostly at sea level, and in the middle of the country from North to South!). The first thing is you'll NOT really see any border between UK and Ireland. Way back before EC membership there used to be customs posts and during the 'Troubles' there were British Army and Gardai checkpoints, but those have disappeared since most of us decided to live in peace with one another! Now, the only thing you'll see is a welcome sign for the county you're crossing into - eg. from Co. Down to Co. Louth, (then Co. Meath, then Co. Dublin).

When you drive in the USA you get used to seeing signs giving the population of a town in the last census. In the south of Ireland you'll see a sign giving the number of people who were killed on the roads last year in that county! I don't know if that says much about Irish drivers, or not, but it does give you pause for thought when you pass one. You might even drive more carefully for a while!

Dublin has two names - the first comes from the Irish words for Black Pool, 'Dubh Ling' in Irish, anglicised to Dublin. But if you visit there, you'll see another name, 'Baillie ath Cliath', on the buses and road signs - which means 'Place of the Wattles' in Irish. Both, obviously, refer to the River Liffey which divides the city into north and south side. Dublin is also a county of Ireland, but has recently been divided into three parts, Dublin City Council in the centre, with Co. Fingal to the north and Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown to the south - which means that the Republic of Ireland now has 28 counties, instead of 26!

Despite all the street signs in Irish (as well as in English), you'll find it difficult enough - outside of the Universities and folk gatherings - to find people who speak much Irish in Ireland's capital city. As I've mentioned before there is no Gaeltaeght (Irish-speaking area) in Dublin, though you will find a small one in west Belfast - though the others are in the west and south. People who originate from outside of Dublin are often referred to as 'culchies' - a word similar in meaning to the English, 'yokel'.

Dublin also has two accents - the main one is found all over the city and is very easily understood, resulting in the Spanish government sending students there every summer to improve their English! The other, 'real Dub' accent is found in inner city working class areas like The Liberties and Ballymun/Ballyfermot and is quite a thick accent - hard for visitors to grasp. Think of the band, The Dubliners, for example.

In Ireland, we tend to soften our speech quite a bit. Where other nationalities might bluntly say, 'Give me some help, please!', we would say something like, 'You wouldn't give us a wee hand, there, would ye?' In Dublin, they might say, 'Would you ever give us a hand, there?' Even swearing in polite Dublin circles is often toned down to, 'Janey, Mac!' - presumably an abbreviation for the Holy Family? I once asked a group of friends in Dublin, 'Well, who IS Janey Mac, anyway?'

While they don't tend to say 'wee' instead of little, like we do in the North, here - and in Scotland, Dubliners use words and phrases that are unfamiliar to us. Children are often told not to be 'bold', meaning naughty. You'll hear parents screaming, 'Come here, you bold child, ye'. They'll often punctuate your telling of an anecdote with, 'Stop!' - which means the exact opposite, more like, 'I don't believe you. Tell me more.' And at the end of your story they might comment, 'That's gas, that is!'

Dubliners love to give nicknames to statues and sculptures in the city. The Anna Livia Statue in O'Connell Street, (which features a lady in running water), is referred to as, 'The floozie in the jacuzzi.' The Inland Waterways headquarters, a rectangular building suspended over a canal basin in the city, is known as, 'The box on the docks'. But the new stainless steel Dublin Spire, also in O'Connell Street, has received many titles, including among others, 'The Spike', 'The Binge Syringe', 'The Stiletto in the Ghetto'' and 'The Rod to God'.

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