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Irish English vs. American English: It’s Never What It Seems

Jan 16, 2014 11:22:32 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Words by Susanne Bach, Resident Director of the CAPA International Education Dublin program.

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One of the biggest advantages for American students coming to study in Ireland is the fact that English is spoken, and you will be understood by everyone without much trouble.

However, the Irish have a very colourful use of their Hiberno-English (the official name for the Irish-English dialect), very much influenced by the Irish language, such as vocabulary, grammatical structure, and pronunciation. Most of this is used in spoken language and often makes for some funny misunderstandings with non-Irish people.

old man at newspaper stand
Photo: Newspapers in Dublin by Thomas Fitzgerald

A great grammatical example would be that the Irish language lacks words that directly translate as "yes" or "no", and instead repeats the verb used in the question, negated if necessary, to answer. Hiberno-English uses "yes" and "no" less frequently than other English dialects as speakers can repeat the verb, positively or negatively. For example: “Are you coming home soon?” – “I am.”

Here are some common words used in everyday language that will make you smile:

American vs. Irish:

Pants = Trousers
Awesome = Brilliant
Sneakers = Runners
Sweater = Jumper
Cleats = Boots
Going for a few beers = Going for a pint

Derived words from Irish, Old, and Middle English:

Having the craic = Having fun
Cop-on = Shrewdness

And last but not least, a vacuum cleaner is called nothing other than a hoover, and ‘your man’ is a male person pointed out, not your date!

Also, read our interview with CAPA Dublin Resident Director Susanne Bach.

Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Language