When I turned 21, the age when the morally upright Uncle Sam decided I could handle booze, I was abroad in London. It’s a city that proves gloomy enough without an unwelcome birthday. London’s nickname is “the Smoke,” which is appropriate because it’s very gray and because I sometimes found it was hard to breathe there.
It was April 6. As the clock approached midnight, I downed some Stellas at a sparsely populated café. A few of my moneyed friends had left London the day before to go skydiving in Lucerne, Switzerland; I was mostly broke and completely alone.
When I sobered up, I found myself aboard a train to Hollyhead — a seaside town in Wales. From Hollyhead, I bought a roundtrip ferry ride to Dublin. I boarded the vessel and promptly fell asleep in the first available chair, mumbling about a Portrait of Dorian Gray. I awoke with a dry mouth aboard the ferry. I got up and stepped carefully: the floor was littered with bodies; each was asleep or hoping to be. It was around five-thirty in the morning when the sun smudged the sky, polluting the cragged Irish coast with a sour orange.
F. Scott Fitzgerald would introduce himself at parties as “one of the most notorious drinkers of the younger generation.” While I’ve sort of fallen in love with the phrase, I’m not as brilliant a drinker or writer as he was. Anyway, I needed something of an introduction (as I knew no one and had no plan) so I went with a typical Irish greeting: “What’s the craic?”
The term craic comes from the Middle English word “crak” which means “loud conversation or bragging talk.” In Ireland, a good story is social lubricant — especially when it’s funny.
So I ditched the Smoke in favor of the craic.
I managed to learn a few things in Dublin — like how to make sure my Guinness is poured correctly (it needs to sit for a spell while it’s three-quarters full to get that creamy foam before topping off the head). But our BlogDailyHerald St. Patrick’s Day’s guide wouldn’t be complete without some colorful Irish slang. I’ve compiled a list of the top 20 words that I think you’ll find useful when you’re gulping green drinks this weekend aboard the St Paddy’s train. Enjoy:
Acting the maggot — Being a fool.
Black Stuff — Guinness.
Blather — Talk.
Boyo — A young person (male).
Buckled — Drunk.
Chancer — A dangerous character.
Craic — Good times.
Dosser — A lazy person.
Eejit — An idiot.
Fluthered — Very drunk.
Gimp — Also means fool.
Gobshite — A total fool.
Guff — Excuses and lies.
How’s she cuttin’ — What’s up?
Now you’re suckin’ diesel — Now you’re talking!
Ossified — Very, very drunk.
Shiftin’ — Making out (in the French style).
Taking the piss — Making fun of.
To go on the rip — To go out drinking.