The English language is spoken in 106 countries across the world. Here in Northern Ireland, we have our own version of the language that we speak every day. We’re proud of our “wee” sayings and one liners, and tourists love it! It now seems no matter where you go in the world, whether you like it or not, once you say where you’re from, it’s immediately followed with a “what’s the craic” or “top of the morning to ya!”
Northern Ireland is divided religiously and politically in many ways, and sometimes it seems that the language we speak is the only thing we all have in common. But what many people don’t realize is that a lot of what we say is actually a mix of both the Gaelic and Ulster-Scots languages. So here’s a test– below are some examples of words and phrases that we use on a daily basis here in Northern Ireland.
“It’s in smithereens”
“My new trousers”
“They’re such a slob”
“Hang on, I’ll grab my gear and then we’ll go”
They all seem pretty common. But now have a look at which language you are actually speaking, it may surprise you:
“Ach naw!” – Ulster Scots
“Smithereens” – Gaelic
“Eejit” – Ulster Scots
“Trousers” – Gaelic
“Slob” – Gaelic
“Gear” – Ulster Scots
Ulster-Scots dates right back to the seventeenth century and Gaelic dates back even further again, to the start of Irish recorded history! But the words and phrases that we use everyday have been preserved over the years. In some cases, they have stuck around to ensure the languages kept the Protestant and Catholic communities apart in a distinctive way. But today, many people don’t realize just how many words and phrases they use from a language that they would consider to be “from the other side”.
It just goes to show that no matter how many things we think divide us, we all have a lot more in common than we know. We just need to open our eyes (and ears) to realize that actually, what we have in common, is that we think we have nothing in common.