You can do better. You deserve better.
In the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day serves as a valid excuse to wear green and drink. But there’s enough rich Irish culture to last the whole year round.
Some of the sayings are historic, out-of-use proverbs with original Irish Gaelic translations (today, as little as 30% of the population in the Republic of Ireland speak Irish). Others are examples of modern slang said in English, the shared official language.
You may recognize this popular blessing (in Irish Gaelic: Go n-éirí an bóthar leat) from Catholic weddings or cross-stitched pillows in Nan’s house. One of the main characteristics of Celtic Christianity is the use of images of nature to show how God interacts with people. “May the road rise up to meet you/ May the wind be always at your back/ May the sun shine warm upon you face …” uses everyday images to mean, may God remove obstacles in your journey through life.
In an Irish pub, patrons toast each other sláinte (pronounced “slaan-sha”) as they clink glasses of Guinness. Derived from the Old Irish adjective slán (which means “safe“), sláinte literally translates as “health” and is used as a stand-in for the more time-consuming “I drink to your health!”
Greetings like “Any craic?” and “How’s the craic?” give rise to potential awkward misunderstandings for tourists, because craic is pronounced like “crack.” The most straightforward definition is fun or enjoyment, and it can substitute for “How are you?” A typical response is “divil a bit,” which means “not much.”
Consider this insult a double whammy. By saying, “Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat,” the speaker wishes that a cat gobble up his enemy like a can of Fancy Feast, and that the Devil eat them both. It’s a surefire sentence to Hell.
Curses are far more detailed and nuanced in Irish culture, as compared to the traditional F-bombs dropped in the U.S. Here’s another popular mouthful of an insult: “May you be afflicted with itching without the benefit of scratching.” Burn.
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