Dublin Slang

Dublin Slang

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You know a city is alive and well when you can see its local lingo evolving and adapting to meet the needs of its citizens. Dublin slang has a rich heritage, born out of two languages and the wry (and often scatological) wit of its citizens.

1. Jackeens

Dublin local language includes names for the various categories of people living in Ireland. Dubliners are "jackeens," once a term of contempt used by other Irish people and aimed at the citizens of the capital city ruled by the Britain and flying the Union Jack. The Irish diminutive 'een' has been added to the name to make it mean "little English." Nowadays the slur is lost, and Dubliners proudly accept their name.

2. Culchies, Bog Trotters, West Britons

In contrast, outsiders (and that includes everyone who isn't at least a third generation Dubliner) have a variety of names in the Dublin local lingo. At the bottom of the heap are "blow-ins" – recent arrivals (say, over the last 20 years!), who, Dubliners believe, have just wandered into the country by chance and are just as likely to drift away again. There are also Dublin slang terms for native Irish people from other parts of the country: "bog trotters" – someone from the west of Ireland, where there are lots of bogs; "culchies" – someone from a small town; and "West Britons" – people who have a posh, English-sounding accent.

3. The Tart with the Cart

Dublin slang also incorporates Dubliners' attitude to the city elders' efforts at beautifying their city. As statues have appeared on the streets, they have acquired slang phrases. Some are easy for visitors to appreciate; the scantily clad Molly Malone statue at the top of Grafton Street quickly became the "tart with the cart," while a bronze statue of two shoppers became "the hags with the bags." It has become quite a competition to give a rhyming slang name to the new street art as it appears, and local newspapers often print the best of them as they emerge.

4. The Time in the Slime

The best of all Dublin slang phrases is no longer with us: in the year leading up to the millennium, the city erected a large countdown clock on a pole in the river beside the O'Connell Bridge. It quickly became the "time in the slime." When it broke down and was removed its name changed to "the gap in the crap."

5. Daniel Day and Wasps

Modern Dublin slang has evolved with the city itself. The new tram system, the Luas, is affectionately known as "the Daniel Day" (think about it!), while traffic wardens (dressed in black with yellow bands) are "wasps."

6. The Corpo, Chas Mahal and the Bunkers

The city government has its own Dublin local language. It is known as "Dublin Corpo," and its offices are "the bunkers," (a reference to their rather ugly brutalist style). The expensively refurbished government buildings are known in the local lingo as "Chas Mahal," a comic mixture of Taj Mahal and the given name (Charlie or Chas) of the former Prime Minister who splashed out the taxpayers' cash to do the place up.

7. Drinking Terms

Drinking too has evolved its own Dublin slang. In local lingo cash (ATM) machines are "drink links" (the first stop of the night when going drinking). A night of drinking is known as being "on the batter" or "on the lash." Someone keen to have a drink is "gummin' for a scoop," or they might say "I've a throat on me." The clubs will have a notice outside in the local language – "no runners" (i.e., sneakers). On the way home they'll call in at the "chipper" for some French fries and a burger. The next morning, the participants' heads might be "brutal."

8. Old-Timers Talk

Dublin slang changes with the generations. An older person might talk of "a soft day" when the city is experiencing a fine rain; they might eat a "sambo" for lunch; when surprised, they'll say, "b'japers, go 'way outta that." To an older Dubliner a "quare fella" is an eccentric, "the auld fella" is his father, and the "chiseller" is his child. When he wants to tell you a great bit of gossip, he'll say, "come here till I tell you." If you ask him how he is he'll be "grand altogether," while if he approves of your actions it will be "fair play to you."

9. Yokes

Both old and young Dubliners can laugh at their own public image as simple country folk. An example of this is the term given to any technical thing, from a supercomputer to a screwdriver: a "yoke."

10. Abuse

Finally, some Dublin slang terms are very negative. If you hear any of the following, inserted into the phrase "ya ....ya" (as in "ya bollix ya"), you know you've annoyed somebody. There's also "gobdaw" (a gullible person), "gossoon" or "dawbeg" (fool) "gombeen man" (a con man) "bowsie" (a good-for-nothing), plus "bollix," "eejit" and "langer" (general terms of contempt).
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