Monday, June 9, 2008

I know, ya know?

Sometimes you don't even know what you don't know and that is a lesson I am learning here.

I was standing in line at the bank the other day (actually I was queuing as we are in Europe) and an officially looking lady with a name tag identifying her as a bank employee came up to me and asked me, "Are you okay?" I immediately took personal inventory. Am I wearing pants? yes. Did I start crying without my own knowledge? no. Oh shit, did I leave Katie somewhere and I am now pushing along an empty stroller (pram, buggy, pushcart)? no. So, I was able to answer quite assuredly that yes, thank you, I am fine. She looked at me strangely and me to her wondering why she had asked me. She then moved on to the next person in line and asked them the same. Only this time the gentleman responded, "I wish to open an account." And I realized: She was asking what I wanted, not what my general state of mental health was. Are you okay? is the Irish way of saying Can I help you?. But how was I supposed to know?

Two weeks ago we asked a cab driver for his card as there are no 888-8888 taxi companies in Kilkenny. They all work independently and all carry a stash of business cards at the ready. Later that day, we called the driver asking for a pick-up from our house into town. When the taxi got there we got in and off we went. Not that I would have noticed that this was not the driver from whom we got the card earlier, but turns out, it wasn't and this driver himself made mention of it. He said he was the one picking us up cause the driver we called was "on his T". I thought for sure that meant he was on his break and had passed along the job to his friend. But, Im getting smart enough to know that I can't assume these things so asked Manus when we got out if in fact that was what he meant. No, it means he was eating dinner. So, technically yes, he was on break, but he was on his tea and tea can mean tea or tea can mean dinner. Im not sure if you have to drink tea with your dinner for this to be true, but I can live without that detail.

As part of my job search Manus' mother suggested I go down to the local recruitment office and register with them. So last Friday I stopped in at FAS recruiters and filled out the forms. When I was telling Manus about it later and how unhelpful I found the F-A-S, he stopped me. It's fas (say faucet and drop the 'cet' part) Its a word, not a set of initials. Its an Irish word and it means "growth" or something like that. I would have been walking around still saying f.a.s. had he not so graciously shown me the error of my ways.

And pronunciation problems don't stop there. The irish language is filled with unlikely bedfellows. Whereas we are comfortable with th- and sh- type digraphs in English, the Irish match up unlikely pairs such as mh or bh. There is a very famous place in Wicklow that my family has been to called Glendalough. That is when I learned that -lough sounds like lock when you are in this neck of the woods so it is pronounced like 'glenda (the good witch) lock". Even some Irish born have stumbled this place's name : Kilmacanogue. Anyone what to take a guess? It's pronounced like "Kill Mechanic". How in the world they get that, I don't feckin know.
So it is no wonder that when I was telling my family about going to Inistioge this weekend, I was saying it wrong. I thought you would say it like In-ish-TOE-g.... But no, it is In-ish-teeeee-g. And it is coincidently where they filmed "Circle of Friends" with Minnie Driver and Chris O'Connell. So get your asses to Blockbuster and feel the luck of the Irish wash over you.

My cousin comes in tomorrow so, I dont know when I will post again. But Ill take lots of pictures while she is here and can regale you with storied of our travels after she is gone.


Clodagh said...


Sounds like you are getting the hang of the language. Soon you will be considered a "local". Wait till you hear a thick Kerry or Cork accent, then you will definitely have trouble understanding them, as do most Irish people not from those areas!!

Georgie said...

you should check out this site:, maybe that can help! Or for $10.36 on Amazon you can buy yourself an Irish/English dictionary. I wonder if super saver shipping works all the way to Ireland?