Every week the good folks at City Language School will take you through some words that the Irish (both the language and people) have given to English. This version of English is known as Hiberno English and while it is not that different from Standard English (Received Pronunciation), there are some curious variations that are unique to our little green island.
We started at the beginning with A so it makes sense that today, we move on to the letter…
Boss (noun) – I’m going to start with this one this week. It’s a personal favourite of mine, as it’s a term that my father and uncle use between themselves.
Most people who are familiar with Standard English will recognise this word as another word for employer or the person you work for but in Hiberno-English we use it to mean friend. It’s a little bit like Hey buddy (USA) or Hey man (USA) or Hello Governor* (Cockney UK).
Here we say…
How are you boss?
…which in both cases just means Hello my friend, are you well?
*It’s worth noting that the pronunciation of this is closer to ‘Ello Govna’
Banjaxed (adj.) – A wonderful Hiberno-English phrase. According to Terence Patrick Dolan’s, A Dictionary of Hiberno-English, the origin of this word are obscure. There is some suggestion that it comes from a combination of ‘bang’ and ‘smash’. Whatever its root, it is a well-known and much loved word in Ireland.
So what does it mean?
A good question. The basic meaning is ruined or unfit but because those expressions have so many meaning themselves it can mean lots of things.
The car is banjaxed. = The car is in disrepair (in a big way)
I’ve had a long day. I’m banjaxed. = I’m very tired.
Look at the state of your man. He’s banjaxed so he is. = Feeling unwell (probably due to excess of some sort)
Your washing machine is banjaxed. You’ll have to get a new one = It’s broken beyond repair
Belt (noun) – Belt can be used to mean a blow or a hit (usually to the head or face)
I hit him a belt across the head.
I gave him a belt of my umbrella.
It is also, rather curiously, used to describe car crashes.
I was reversing out the gate and I got a belt of Ferrari coming behind me.
Biddy – This is a slightly disrespectful term for an old lady who tends to be a bit of a grumpy gossip.
That biddy over in 46 is always letting her dog out late at night.
Baluba – The origins of this term are truly fascinating. During a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations in the Congo in 1960, a group of Irish soldiers were attacked in their position by a local tribe called the Balubas. The attack resulted in the deaths of nine Irish soldiers which shocked the general public in Ireland.
The term baluba entered the lexicon and it hasn’t gone away.
It is still very common to hear the phrase…
He went balubas = He went crazy/mad OR He got really angry
…particularly in Dublin where many of the victims came from.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with the letter C and a look at words such as culchie
As always we’d like to acknowledge the help of Terence Patrick Dolan’s, A Dictionary of Hiberno-English for this article.