It’s Irish English week! Here is our first guest blog post from Dymphna Lonergan, author of Sounds Irish: The History of the Irish Language in Australia.
Recently at a family lunch here in Australia I mentioned I was going to put something on the long finger. There was silence for a moment and then my son asked: “What does that mean?” I have been almost forty years in Australia and still use Irish English phrases and words not knowing that they are not understood by all. Of course it didn’t help when I explained that to put something on an mhéar fhada in Irish means to postpone something and that the long finger is the middle finger!
Some mused that the middle finger was furthest away from the palm but it’s a mystery why that would indicate a postponement to the Irish. These are the moments when I marvel at the influence of the Irish language on English long after the language has ceased to be the native expression of the Irish. This influence has traveled around the world, and is bubbling quietly away in other World Englishes. Australian English is an example. Some iconic Australian words are Irish language words in disguise: kip, brumby, sheila, and didgeridoo are evidence of Irish speakers contributing to a new English dialect under the Southern Cross.Email this Post