Talk to Me, Like

One of the more interesting aspects of visiting a place is negotiating the language in the place where you visit. This is true even when speaking of my native tongue. A week in Limerick for work seemed the perfect opportunity to listen to the Irish use of the English language. And so I had a pet project.

Perhaps a lucky coincidence was a layover in Germany and Storm Ciara, which gave me an opportunity to counterpoint the flowery exposition of the Irish against the pragmatic and direct (read: cruel) nature of German. The first voice we heard was our German pilot. Engineers are the most pragmatic beings on Earth and once you make that engineer German it hits a level of pragmatism and precision void of all humanity or capacity to feel. 

Pragmatic German Pilot

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, you might have noticed that most of the flights within Western Europe have been cancelled, but our flight to Dublin has not been. This is due to the fact that there is no rain there, but there is a lot of high winds. We are going to give it a try. The good news is that we have plenty of fuel, so if we can’t land we can simply turn around and come back to Munich. OK? Good. So, now I instruct you to sit back and relax and we shall be on our way.”

My feelings about this broadcast are varied, but can mostly be labelled under the headings of anger, confusion, and horror. Unless he or she is speaking about the hopes of making up lost time or avoiding turbulence, one never likes to hear the word try come from a pilot’s mouth. This is especially true when the verb + noun to be attempted is land an airplane and the action / punishment resulting in the hypothetically failed future attempt is death in a fiery crash (with lots of fuel to burn) or returning to Munich after a 5 hour tour of northwestern Europe from 42,000 feet.

Additionally, this pilot and I have vastly different understandings of what entails ‘good news’ and what sort of things purvey ‘relaxation’.    

Spoiler alert: we made it. You may not want a German pilot to ease your worries, but you definitely want one landing an Airbus A320 in a rainstorm in Dublin.

What cheer we had at landing safely was properly spanked out of us by a long line at passport control. By the time we got outside to find our bus to Limerick the rain and sleet was coming down hard. Furthermore, we were late and therefore unsure about whether we’d be able to get on the later bus. The following was a conversation that warmed our cockles.

Friendly Irish Bus Driver

Me: Hello, I was supposed to get the 6 o’clock bus, but our flight was delayed and the line at passport control was awful. Also, we had to fill out paperwork because our bags didn’t make it. Could we please get on the 8 o’clock?

Driver: Well that certainly seems an appropriate solution to such a tragic set of circumstances, like. Let’s give us your name lad and we’ll see you on your way, like.

Me: Damien Galeone.

Driver: And here you are, clear as day, young Mr. Galeone. You are 100% set. Now, go get out of this damp Irish weather and make yourself comfortable and eat your sandwich. We’ll be off in a moment.

The enthusiasm with which most Irish people leap to the aid of someone suggests that they are just waiting for an opportunity to do so. The next day PJ and I were hiding out the storm in a pub called (John) Flannery’s. We had the following conversation with a bartender.

Me: Where would you go for cheap clothes? Our bags haven’t shown up yet.

Bartender: A right jam, like. Now, you’ll be going up the road a bit, back behind Flannery’s (everything is behind, next to, in front of, or upstairs from a Flannery’s Pub) and next to the barbershop (or a barbershop) there’s a right little place called Penny’s. Cheap and cheerful, like; it’ll fall apart before your very eyes after a single wash, but you’ll get a full kit out of a tenner. Cheep and cheerful, like, just the way you need in these bleeding circumstances, don’t you know. Grand it is.

As visitors we had a lot of conversations with servers. Their tendency to approach every social interaction as an opportunity to spin their brand of English into little bits of poetry and humor made it very easy for them to coax me into a seafood chowder, brown bread, and a Guinness.

Cafeteria Worker at the University

Cafeteria Woman: Good morning, my love, and what is it I’ll be serving you this fine morning?

Me: Could I have a full Irish, please?

Cafeteria Woman: Well I’d be a right awful excuse for a chef if I couldn’t serve you up right, now, wouldn’t I? Now will I be toasting up brown or white bread for you today, like, my love?

Me: Brown, please.

Cafeteria Woman: A natural choice. Now, you go on and grab two butters there, like, and move on down there and get yourself something hot to take the chill out of you, my love, and I’ll be getting this breakfast together for you in a jiff, like.

Me: (through tears of joy) Thank you.

Cafeteria Woman: You are more than welcome, my love. Now, get yourself a coffee or a tea. You look like you need it.

There’s no doubt color in every English variety. Anyone who has heard the litany of insults the Scots have leveled at Trump knows that you just don’t piss off a Scottish person. The Brits have a way of saying loads of words without saying anything that will require them to visit your house. And sure, Canadian English also exists.

The goal of Irish English seems to be relaxing and charming interlocuters, to warm up and cheer a visitor or a friend as they shake off the wind and rain that attacks their island 300 days a year. And that’s a language I can get behind, like.

  1. #1 by gregory j galeone on February 18, 2020 - 4:18 am

    A really enjoyable read Damo. I loved the line “with plenty of fuel to burn”.

  2. #2 by Angela on February 18, 2020 - 5:55 am

    I love this Damien. Roaring over the description of the pilot! This is great stuff. I read it three times and laughed all three times.

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