The Ulster dialect, is rich and colourful but can be confusing. In my mind I hear the expressions used by my characters as clearly as if I were living back in the North of Ireland and have tried to reproduce their idiom as accurately as possible. I was, after all, immersed in the speech patterns for thirty years. Like all patois it is not one bit shy about adopting useful phrases from others. For example, the reader should not be surprised to find examples of Cockney rhyming slang in these columns. For those unfamiliar with Ulster-Scots I have taken the liberty of appending a glossary.

I’ve included a sampling of the language online for your interest:

Acting the goat: Behaving foolishly
Apples and pears: Cockney rhyming slang for stairs
Argy-bargy: Voluble disagreement
Aunt Fanny Jane (my): Nonsense.
Away off and chase yourself: Go away
Away offand feel your head: You’re being stupid
Away on: I don’t believe you
Banjaxed: Exhausted or broken
Barmbrack: Speckled bread (see Mrs Kincaid’s recipes)
Bashtoon: Bastard
Beagle’s gowl: Very long way (the distance over which the cry of a beagle can be heard)
Bee on a hot brick: Running round distractedly
Bloater: Salted and smoked herring
Blow you out: Tell you to go away
Bob (a few): One shilling (A sum of money)
Both legs the same length: Standing about uselessly
Bowsey: Dublin slang for drunkard
Boys-a-boys, (a-dear): Expressions of amazement
Brass neck: Impertinence, chutzpah
Call the cows home: Be ready to tackle anything
Chiseller: Dublin slang for a small child
Crúibins: Irish. Pronounced “Crubeen.” Boiled pigs’ trotters, served cold and eaten with vinegar
Cure (wee): Hair of the dog
Dab hand: Skilled at
Didny (Didnae. Alt sp.): Did not
Doddle: A short distance or an easy task
Drill-the-dome boys: Medical slang for neurosurgeons. See also “Nutcrackers”
Drúishin: Irish. Pronounced “Drisheen.” Dish made of cows’ blood, pigs’ blood, and oatmeal. A Cork City delicacy
Eejit: (buck) Idiot (buck eejit. Imbecile)
Egg-bound hen: If an egg becomes stuck in the oviduct and cannot be laid the hen is said to be egg-bound. Applied to a person suggests extreme distress
Eggs (on): Extremely worried
Fenians: Catholics (Pejorative)
Finagle: Achieve by cunning or dubious means
Get (away) on with you: Don’t be stupid
Get on one’s wick: Get on one’s nerves
Give over: Stop it
Glipe (great): Stupid or very stupid person
Gobshite: Dublin slang. Literally dried nasal mucus. Used pejoratively about a person
Good man ma Da: Expression of approval
Grand man for the pan: One who really enjoys fried food
Guttersnipe: Ruffian
Hairy bear: Woolly caterpillar
Half-cut: Drunk
Head staggers: Making a very stupid decision (literally a parasitic disease affecting the brains of sheep and causing them to stagger.)
Heart of corn: Very good-natured
Hobby-horse shite: (your head’s full of) Literally sawdust. You’re stupid
How’s about ye? (bout ye?”) How are you? or good-day
I’m your man: I agree to and will follow your plan
In soul I do: Emphatic
In the stable (of a drink): Already paid for before being poured
Jigs and reels (between the): To cut a long story short
Knickers in a twist (knot): Anxiously upset
Knocking: Having sexual intercourse
Let the hare sit: Leave the thing alone
Load of cobblers’: Cockney rhyming slang. Cobblers’ awls—balls. Used to signify rubbish
Lummox: Stupid creature
Mullet (stunned): To look as stupid or surprised as a mullet, an ugly salt-water fish
My shout: I’m buying the drinks
Near took the rickets: Had a great shock
No dozer: Clever
No goat’s toe (he thinks he’s): Has an over-inflated sense of his own importance
Not as green as you’re cabbage looking: More clever than you appear to be
Oxter: (cog) Armpit. To carry by supporting under the armpits
Pac-a-mac: Cheap, transparent, plastic raincoat carried in a small bag
Paddy’s market: A large, disorganised crowd
Penny bap: A small bun, usually coated in flour
Physical jerks: Gymnastics
Piss artist: Alcoholic
Poke: Have sex with or a small parcel
Pop one’s clogs: Die
Poulticed: Pregnant (usually out of wedlock)
Quare: Ulster pronunciation of queer. Very or strange
Rug rats: Children
Scunner (take at or to): Dislike someone intensely and bear a grudge
Skiver: Corruption of scurvy. Pejorative. Ne’er-do-well
Snotters: Runny nose
Soft hand under a duck: Gentle or
very good at
Take your hurry in your hand: Wait a minute
Ta-ta-ta-ra: (Dublin slang) party
Turf accountant: Bookmaker
Up the spout (pipe): Pregnant
Wee: Small, but in Ulster can be used, and is, to modify almost anything without reference to size. A barmaid, and old friend greeted me by saying, “Come on in, Pat. Have a wee seat and I’ll get you a wee menu, and would you like a wee drink while you’re waiting?”
Wee buns: Very easy
Whaling (away at): Beating
Won’t butter any parsnips: Will make absolutely no difference
Your head’s cut: (a marley) You are being very stupid, and your head is as small and as dense as a child’s marble
Youse: Ulster plural of you

  • Connect with Patrick

Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor

We are pleased to announce Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor is a USA Today bestseller! And it can be purchased at all booksellers now.

It’s here!

An Irish Doctor In Peace and At War is now available. Get yours today!