Pól Ó Muirí
Just a quick note for those of you who live in the South and who are travelling North to shop – don’t panic. Nordies are everywhere in the North but, with a little caution, your trip should not end up with your car being burnt or used as a barricade.
Language is everything in the North and the slightest slip up could give offence. There is a very simple rule of thumb if you want to see if you are talking to a unionist Nordie or a nationalist Nordie. All you have to do is say: “Aren’t those Kerry boys grand footballers?” Nationalist Nordies will tell you immediately what they think of Kerry footballers while unionist Nordies will give you a withering look of disdain that will make you want to join Sinn Féin.
Different Nordies have different greetings. Belfast Nordies do not say “What about you?” That is, like, so 80s. They just say: “Bout you.” Derry Nordies greet each other with “Yes”. This “yes” should not be confused with the “yes” used to affirm a question. “Do you want this wrapped? Yes” is not the same as “Yes, Séamus”. Practise saying “Yes” to strangers as you walk down Grafton Street. You will soon speak Derry like a Bogsider. Tyrone Nordies greet each other with “How’s it cutting?” The correct response is: “As sharp as a blade.” Don’t be frightened by the mention of a ‘blade’. They will not attack you with flick knives and, in any case, if you have ended up in Tyrone, you will have passed all the big shops and really should not need to talk to anyone until you reach Belfast.
Contrary to Sinn Féin propaganda, not that many people in the North speak Irish – and those who do speak Ulster Irish. Do not be tempted to go into an off-licence and say: “Conas atá tú? Cá bhfuil an discounted Bushmills?” They will think you are Polish and will try to sell you vodka.
Don’t ever use the word “grand” as this will make people laugh and ask if you know Biddy from Glenroe. Yes, many nationalist Nordies do watch RTÉ – but don’t pay the licence fee because they live under the British imperial yoke and are frightened of BBC detection vans. Use words like “sound” and “dead-on” to voice approval. “That’s a sound bargain” or “That’s dead-on. Give us three tins of Quality Street.”
Remember the Queen’s English is different to your Republican English because the queen still rules the Not-So-Occupied Six Counties. However, never, ever, ever, be tempted into using Ulster-Scots – this will embarrass everyone. Do not, for example, say “that’s a brave, bonnie bargain you are after giving me, lassie.”
That will only end in tears and you could well make a hames of your shopping trip.