I’ve mentioned before that I first came to live in the Russianside with my grandmother, Maura Moran, in my late teens. “Nanny” as she was called was in the family had her own way of expressing herself. But of course, she was just a different generation, and from an old fishing family who had words and expressions that had not changed for many generations I presume.
To be honest I was oblivious to the way we spoke until Deena came into our home. Deena and Nanny took an instant liking to each other and they would talk for hours at the fire, or in the kitchen. Afterwards Deena would often ask me for a translation, and as she herself became part of the home, would ask Nanny directly what she meant.
|Nanny with the “Thursday Club” gang in the Reading Room several
years back now. The club finished this past September. Another important
meeting point and sharing or stories and maintaing local connection.
Photo courtesy of Bridgid Power.
So between us, we have put the following little dictionary together. Most words are spelled phonetically as we are unsure of the spelling. Of course you can also check out the Dictionary of Waterford Slang, and you don’t even need the book, as they have an online version.
Streel. A person would “streel in” to the house, meaning they looked the worse for wear, but probably more like they had done something wrong. For some reason the phrase tended to be used to describe a female. She might also remark – “did you see the streel of that wan”, “she streeled in” or “thats some streel of a wan”. I particularly remember a chap visiting us one time with his wife and he was wearing a pair of jeans with rips in the knees – all the fashion at the time. Nanny was apoplectic when they left “Did you see the streel of him, and his wife sitting there looking at em”
Scrawb. Any cut or scrape of little or no consequence was considered a “Scrawb” “How did you get that scrawb on your arm” Always to be treated with warm water and dettol
pish óg. Any oul tall tale or incorrect story was considered “pish óg” this also went for sayings which she considered untrue or questionable. I remember Deena asking once about fishermen meeting red haired women on the way to fish and turning back as it meant they would catch no fish. “arrah that’s only oul pish óg” she would say
As you would expect from a commercial fishing home, there were many phrases to describe the weather. A sample:
Maugey. Generally a dreary, grey overcast day, most likely with a chance of rain, In discussing this with Vic Bible he wondered would it have meant muggy. But generally a muggy day includes heat, and it was an expression I can remember being used winter or summer, but maybe that was the origin.
Ang-ish. Another expression to go with the weather. An angish day. An angish day was a day that looked like it was going to rain at any minute. I now realise this is an Irish/Gaelic phrase – a work colleague one day who is a native Irish speaker asked me how the weather was in work. I said it was Ang-ish. And asked after her own situation. “Go Aingish ar fad” and when I expressed surprise that she knew the term she told me it meant miserable altogether.
Black wind – any wind from the east was described as the black wind. No idea why, but she was convinced it brought illness
Well if that “don’t bate the band” to express surprise
Time to pick the Bookalawns – ragworth which had to be picked by law
That’s some fancy “clobber” ye have on – clothes, or more likely an outfit
He “died in harness” or “died with his boots on” meaning a person who died while at work, or still going strong
Lot of “dunnage” on the strand – usually after a storm – lots of driftwood etc
He was only “gaa-ching around” – a layabout or time wasting
“Put the spud in the gree-shig” (a favourite of hers) a spud in its jacket put into the hot ash below the firegrate to heat it
Have you “no gumption” – no cop on/ common sense
“That’s some hate” – an expression used for a really hot day – heat/hate
He was a “homeward bounder” a returned sailor
ye “Lood ra mawn” ya – ye ejitt
Moolick – When something was dirty. When it was worse than that twas “Pure Moolick” when used it was often combined with a facial expression of disapproval or even disgust.
“Mol foostering” – messing about with something, making a mess of it maybe
He was “on the tear” – a drinking session
He’s “over be-ant” – an exprssion about the location of someone – maybe over in the village or in a field not far away I guess
A Quare Hawk – someone acting odd, or maybe someone acting out of character
He’s some scut – a right bollix of a fella
No “spake” – didn’t say a word
There were also phrases she used that we always enjoyed.
When someone disagreed with you – “well, tis not the one way takes everybody”
When something inevitable happened, like someone fell off a bike, who was always careless – “long threatening comes at last”
Or when you had to do something even when it was against you will, but necessary none the less – “groan she may, but go she must”
The current generation probably get less opportunity to hear such words or phrases, with heads stuck in computers, on phones or other screens accessing information, entertainment or connecting with people across the globe.
When John Barry returned from Canada in the 1960’s he was nicknamed “the Guy” because he used the Americanism so freely, and because it stood out as being so odd in the community. No such oddity would exist now I’d imagine. Different times indeed. And yet when relations visited us from Prince George, BC in Canada recently they struggled with our accents and our words. So perhaps much of the words and expressions of Nannys generation remain. We just dont pause to consider them in our daily use.
Others, such as fishing expressions and local placenames however are much under threat, The fishing ones because as the fishing activities the community grew up around have been removed, so those activities are no longer practised or discussed. The placenames, because many of them related to the fishing also, or because as the older people die out, so do their use.
That’s why activities such as the placenames project currently under way with the Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project is so relevant. There will be several events over winter 2015/16 in the Reading Room Cheekpoint. Please come along to share your local knowledge, or improve it!