An A-Z of modern Ireland: From AA Roadwatch to ‘Zombie’
Sarah Cassidy and Kunak McGann bring you an alphabetical guide to today’s Ireland
F is for fake tan ... Rigorous application of the golden lotion turns milky-white maidens into bronzed goddesses. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien
A: AA Roadwatch
/ey ey rohd-woch/
proper noun. commuter intelligence
The ultimate source of random Irish place names. Where else would you hear of exotic locations like Lough Atalia Road, the Moneenageisha junction and the townland of Blackhall Big, as well as the Dunkettle Interchange, stop-go systems and a jam-packed M50? Your breakfast wouldn’t be the same without it.
B: Barack Obama Plaza
/bar-ak oh-ba-ma pla-za/
proper noun. a service station fit for a president
The former US president can trace his roots back to Moneygall, in County Offaly, and in 2011 was enthusiastically welcomed “home”. If he ever returns he can drop by the M7 petrol station named in his honour and pick up a “What’s the craic, Barack?” T-shirt, a “My name is Barack Obama of the Moneygall O’Bamas and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe we lost along the way” badge, or even a stick of Obama Plaza rock.
/kum awn yoo boyz in green/
phrase. cheering on the Irish team
Everyone’s favourite Facebook status the day before the big match. The day after, prepare for something a little less upbeat when the realities of being an Irish fan hit home.
D: down under
adverb. strewth! throw another shrimp on the barbie
Nearly mandatory for travelling students these days is a year down under - bunking 12 to a room, working in Rosie O’Grady’s pub or fruit picking from dawn till dusk. There isn’t a family on the island of Ireland that hasn’t had a member or two permanently relocate to the other side of the globe in search of sun, sea and Alf from Home and Away. What do you mean there’s no such place as Summer Bay?
E: Eamon Dunphy
person. grumpy critic
The “tired and emotional”, biro-throwing, ex-RTÉ sports panellist. Not a good pundit, but a great pundit.
F: fake tan
noun. artificial orange-ing
Visitors to Ireland could be forgiven for thinking that its young population are descendants of Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas. This jaundiced look is in fact purposefully acquired through the rigorous application of fake tan, taking them from milky-white maidens to bronzed goddesses. Sort of.
G: Game of Thrones
/geym uv thrownz/
tv prog. soft porn global phenomenon
Filmed in some spectacularly beautiful areas of Northern Ireland, Game of Thrones has fans from around the globe flocking to Ulster to see locations from their favourite show, even causing traffic chaos on the Dark Hedges (aka the Kingsroad). The most illegally downloaded show in the world, GoT has it all: a gripping storyline, high production values, award-winning acting and a healthy helping of gratuitous nudity. A word to the wise: do not watch it with Great-Aunt Joan. Awkward!
person pl. kerry political dynasty
The late Jackie and his sons Michael and Danny, all Kerry TDs, would be known for going to great lengths for their loyal constituents. Between them they have also demanded the Army be mobilised to tackle aggressive rhododendrons, and blamed fairy forts for causing a dip in the road, nuclear testing for the hole in the ozone layer and God for global warming. You couldn’t make it up.
I: Irish goodbye
noun. surreptitious exit
People are split down the middle on whether an Irish goodbye – the act of slipping quietly out of a party – is monumentally rude or incredibly considerate. On the one hand it means you haven’t given people time to say their teary farewells; on the other you haven’t ruined the atmosphere with, well, all those teary farewells.
proper noun. lost summer
The Irish tradition of spending a summer in the US waiting on tables and ramping up the accent to get a few more tips. You might even change your name to Sinéad, dye your hair red and talk about your pet leprechaun. A college education doesn’t come cheap, you know.
K: Katie Taylor
person. boxer supreme
A trailblazing woman boxer. Five consecutive golds at the World Championships and six at the Europeans. Olympic gold. World champion with two belts. And she’s Irish, thank God.
L: ‘The Late Late Toy Show’
/thuh leyt leyt toi shoh/
tv prog. it’s beginning to look a lot like . . .
A Christmas-jumper-clad host, the latest toys and gadgets reviewed by adorably precocious kids, heart-warming musical performances and tear-jerker moments. An institution.
M: man who slipped on the ice
/man hoo slipt awn thee ays/
person. wintery fall guy
One lad’s spectacular fall on icy paths during the big freeze of 2010, serendipitously filmed and broadcast by RTÉ. Must be the most-watched clip of the Six One news ever.
N: negative equity
noun. when your outstanding mortgage is more than your house is worth
When the bottom fell out of the Irish housing market, up to a third of home owners were plunged into negative equity. Back in the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, Irish people used to browse property websites for fun; now it’s to check roughly how much negative equity we’re still in.
O: Olé Olé Olé Olé!
/oh-ley oh-ley oh-ley oh-ley/
phrase (sung). Irish/Spanish cheer
This catchy little number became hugely popular in Ireland during the 1990 soccer World Cup, when it featured heavily in the chorus of the official team song, Put ’Em Under Pressure. It’s simple, it’s upbeat and you can pick up the tune in about five seconds. Sure, we may have stolen it from the Spanish, but nobody sings it louder or prouder than the Irish.
P: Ploughing Championships
event. annual agricultural knees-up
Every September hundreds of thousands of people attend the national championships to see expert ploughmen and women pit their skills against one another. Not a fan of ploughing? There’s bound to be something that takes your fancy – the pig agility course, welly throwing, sheep shearing, cow milking or the tractor made of cheese. Hunter wellies and waxed jackets optional.
Q: The queen of Ireland
/thuh kween uv ar-lund/
film. aka Panti Bliss
An acclaimed documentary about the drag queen Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill), an important symbol of modern Ireland and a highly influential figure in the marriage-equality campaign. Panti gave it socks with her noble call for equal rights and an end to homophobia. All hail the queen of Ireland!
proper noun. thrifty travel
From a small airline founded in 1984, Ryanair has grown to become Europe’s largest carrier. Making air travel more affordable through its infamous no-frills approach, it often opts for less-used airports that are considerable distances from the hoped-for destination. Sure, Frankfurt-Hahn is only 125km up the road from Frankfurt. What d’ya expect for €29.99?
S: Star Wars
film. epic sci-fi
No nation was happier than ours when Kerry’s breathtaking Skellig Islands were chosen as the location for scenes in the Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. At last we could legitimately embrace Luke Skywalker as one of our own. We knew it.
T: Twelve Pubs of Christmas
/twelv pubz uv kris-mus/
event. modern Yuletide tradition
Thought to have originated in Dublin, the Twelve Pubs of Christmas has taken Ireland by storm. Each December sees hordes of Christmas-jumper-clad revellers descend on 12 pubs in succession, partaking of a drink in each one. This is serious endurance drinking, not to be attempted by anyone with a fondness for their liver.
U: unnecessary journeys
phrase. risky trips to lark about in bad weather
“Don’t make unnecessary journeys. Don’t take risks on treacherous roads.” The RTÉ reporter Teresa Mannion spawned a viral dance hit with her heartfelt pleas during Storm Desmond in December 2015.
person pl. ancient and hirsute scandinavian pirates
Back in the early ninth century, fleets of Viking raiders arrived on Irish shores in longships. Initially violently plundering their way around the island, they eventually settled and intermarried, becoming permanent fixtures here. But apart from some of the most common Irish surnames, the first Irish coins, the development of the cities of Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, the creation of trade routes with Europe, and the building of Christ Church cathedral, what have the Vikings ever done for us?
W: Wild Atlantic Way
/wyld at-lan-tik wey/
proper noun. west-coast wonders
This 2,500km touring route along the Atlantic coast of Ireland, officially launched in 2014, has proved hugely popular with tourists. It takes in world-class beauty spots like the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Skelligs, Baltimore and Doolin. Fair play to the genius who came up with this idea in a brainstorming meeting.
X: The X Factor
/thee eks fak-tur/
tv prog. glorified singing competition
The Irish talent on this long-running TV show has ranged from the sublime, with the Dublin diva Mary Byrne, to the ridiculous, with Jedward. And viewers love the judge Louis Walsh’s catchy little phrases and unexpected expressions. But easily topping the popularity stakes is the Mullingar charmer Niall Horan and his One Direction bandmates. Millions of teenage girls worldwide will forever be grateful.
Y: young people of Ireland
/yung peep-ul uv ar-lund/
phrase. papal greeting
In September 1979 the pope himself took a trip here to address the “young people of Ireland”, ensuring a lack of originality when it came to picking the young fella’s name. If you’re Irish, male and born in 1980, chances are you’re named John Paul.
song. cranberries track
A protest song written by the Limerick band’s lead singer, the late Dolores O’Riordan, that made them a worldwide sensation. The poignant lyrics and grungy bass made it the perfect soundtrack for teenage angst. Leave me alone, Mam!
The A-Z of Being Irish: From the Angelus to Zig & Zag, by Sarah Cassidy and Kunak McGann, is published by O’Brien Press, €9.99