March 6, 2014 4:47 PM   Subscribe

This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland. As the Life of a people—according to our motto—is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it—Irish and English. ... Here for the first time—in this little volume of mine—our Anglo-Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.
P.W. Joyce's 1910 work, "English as We Speak it in Ireland," is a fascinating chronicle of a language's life, and no mistake.

Subjects treated include: affirming, assenting, and saluting; assertion by negative of opposite; idioms; the devil and his 'territory' ("Very bad potatoes:—'Wet and watery, scabby and small, thin in the ground and hard to dig, hard to wash, hard to boil, and the devil to eat them.'"); swearing ("Yet while keeping themselves generally within safe bounds, it must be confessed that many of the people have a sort of sneaking admiration—lurking secretly and seldom expressed in words—for a good well-balanced curse, so long as it does not shock by its profanity."); proverbs; exaggeration and redundancy ("That man would talk the teeth out of a saw"); and more.

I ran across this book while trying to hunt down more information about the word "spalpeen" (a rascal), which Joyce's work includes thus:
Seventy or eighty years ago the accomplishments of an Irishman should be:

To smoke his dudheen,
To drink his cruiskeen,
To flourish his alpeen,
To wallop a spalpeen.
posted by MonkeyToes (8 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
A grand post, so it is.
posted by knapah at 4:53 PM on March 6, 2014

I love this!

Does anyone know of similar works for other languages? I could probably read these forever.
posted by danb at 6:10 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know so many people who need this book. Thank you.
posted by immlass at 6:12 PM on March 6, 2014

Does anyone know of similar works for other languages?

English As She Is Spoke is famous for its scholarly accuracy, although no one has yet determined what other language it's about.
posted by uosuaq at 8:06 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The section on assertion by negative of the opposite caught me a little off-balance, as I'd never considered that an unusual form or usage. Raised in Sydney with Irish family on both sides, I'm now wondering from which context that became an everyday part of my speech habits.

Does anyone know of similar works for other languages? I could probably read these forever.

Sussex as She Wus Spoke is a lovely if slightly lighter take on this and various aspects of traditional Sussex life. "You may push and you may shov, but I'm hemmed if I'll be druv."
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 9:51 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The section on assertion by negative of the opposite caught me a little off-balance

Me too. I think of that as characteristic of New Zealand vernacular humour. Plenty of Irish immigrants here, including my own ancestors, though not so many as Sydney I'm sure.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:49 AM on March 7, 2014

I sometimes refer to my husband as 'himself' and now I understand that construction a little better, thanks to Joyce:
Ned Brophy, introducing his wife to Mr. Lloyd, says, 'this is herself sir.' This is an extremely {47}common form of phrase. 'Is herself [i.e. the mistress] at home Jenny?' 'I'm afraid himself [the master of the house] will be very angry when he hears about the accident to the mare.' This is an Irish idiom. The Irish chiefs, when signing their names to any document, always wrote the name in this form, Misi O'Neill, i.e. 'Myself O'Neill.'
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2014

Mise Ni Seoighe

just to say, it's Mise, not misi

but that is the origin of the Himself, herself, yourself

the O' Neill, the O Donnell, would be the clan leads, a title not a surname

ah, is it yourself? is something I never heard from my parents, as I'm female but something my husband has heard.
posted by Wilder at 12:52 PM on March 17, 2014

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