Effing Irish is better than effing English

Curses in Irish are more musical and malevolent

Stewie – the sort of person who could curse in Irish

Stewie – the sort of person who could curse in Irish


The fellow on the train was effing mad with his boss; he was effing mad about every effing think that was effing happening that day and he was effing telling his effing mate in a way that every effing person on the effing train knew what he was effing talking about it.

It was effing nonstop and he was effing wearing an effing shirt and effing tie, so he was not effing working on an effing building site and he had an effing smart phone and an effing laptop, so I am effing guessing that he had an effing university education of some effing sort but what the eff does that matter when your effing boss is effing ruining your effing life, the effer?!

I put the my headphones up to 11 and hoped that the music would drown out the effing effer and his effing English. You see that’s the problem with swearing in English – it is so effing boring and so effing one dimensional. I felt like taping him on the shoulder and offering him a few phrases in Irish that might help him because, the truth be told, cursing in Irish is both more musical and more malevolent than swearing in English.

Where English has been reduced to the ‘f’ word as verb, noun, adjective and adverb, Irish still retains the curse, the language reaches into the darkest corners of human emotion and wishes you ill luck, bad fortune and death. Now that’s a lot more effing effective than just effing, ya effer.

Two small examples from my own time in the Gaeltacht – and be warned, if you are of a nervous disposition look away now. “Scrios Dé ort” was one of the more serious ways to curse somone. Literally it means “God’s destruction on you”. It’s a way of invoking that Old Testament God, you know the one, the one who smote the Egyptians and Israel’s enemies, the Sodom and Gomorrah one, He who brought about the Flood. So, basically, you are asking that God wipes he who is cursed off the face of the planet; that God, who gave you being, tears up your ticket on the train of life and wipes you out. Pretty effing hardcore!

Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps you are one of those sophisticated Irish people with a degree. You are educated and fear no primitive sky god. The curse would have no more effect on you than Thor shouting: “Odin’s destruction upon you.” You have seen the Thor movie; you are not frightened. God’s destruction, God’s ability to remove you from being, is only effective if you actually believe in God.

Fair enough. Let’s get darker. Let’s go all Stewie Griffin/Family Guy bad. Oh yeah. How about “Bás na bpuisíní ort” – the death of kittens on you. Kittens? But kittens are all cuddly and cute. Everyone likes kittens. How could that possible be a curse?

Think, my friend, of a crueller, harsher Ireland. What did people do with unwanted kittens? They put them in a sack and drowned them. That’s what you are wishing on your nemesis – that someone will put them in a sack, throw them in a river and drown them. You are going all snuff movie on your enemies; you utter the words and see exactly what will befall them.

It is not just swearing, it is more, it is cursing, it is calling on dark forces to do dark things to living people. The words are an evil incantation, a call for death.

Talking of kittens, Breandán Mac Gearailt’s book, 500 Mallacht Ort, has another cat-related curse: “Bás na gcat sa dúluachar chugat, an bás liath gan bhainne/May your death be as a cat’s in winter, grey death without milk.”

How is that for reaching deep into the darkest of human hatred?

How is that for an actual chilling curse?

How is that for a practical way of using Irish in an everyday situation?

So, the next time someone annoys you, do you want to reach for the blunt, bald, boring eff word or do you want to be a real Gael and draw down a curse that should always make you pause before you unleash it on someone?

That is why effing Irish is better than effing English.

Now tell your effing friends.

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