In a Word . . . Vernacular

A deterioration of the GAA language set in last year as match attendance was stopped

 

One of the great tragedies following prolonged pandemic lockdowns has been a rapid decline in the GAA’s vernacular. This is not entirely unexpected as no language survives long without continual practice. Most of us have personal experience of this where our first official language, an Gaeilge, is concerned.

It is the same with the GAA’s very own language such as was employed in all its muscular vitality at any match anywhere on this island in the days before Covid. A deterioration set in last year when people were prevented from attending games, and is particularly noticeable now among those allowed back.

In this column last March we reminded GAA supporters of the richness of their, well, unique and colourful tongue, such as can be heard far and wide on a clear day, wherever the pitch. The rustiness of returning supporters has prompted heartfelt appeals to this column for a refresher in GAA speak.

This is another contribution to that language revival and does not repeat what was here last March.

To describe a player as “a Hatchet Man” suggests he is a mountainy type with murderous instincts and best avoided. “Bullin” describes the reaction of a player hit by a Hatchet Man, as does “bull thick”, meaning very angry indeed.

A “joult” from a Hatchet Man means the recipient may have to wear a neck brace for some weeks. “A hames of it” describes attempts by an average player to take revenge, which fail, on a Hatchet Man. It may mean the assailant ends up “bushted”, describing severe injuries and widespread bruising.

This, in particular, can be the fate of any “mullocker”, an awkward, not particularly talented player who may be thrown to the Hatchet Man as a last resort.

The “Comm-a-tee” are those local folk who deal with complaints from opposing teams about the Hatchet Man and who, generally, will conclude that as there was no credible witness to outrage, everything is in fact “mighty”, a word with wide interpretation depending on context but it usually means the Hatchet Man can carry on with his sweet ways.

A “rake” refers to the amount of pints imbibed after such Comm-a-tee meetings in celebration of the Hatchet Man. It may also refer to consumption by Junior B players before any match. Anywhere.

Vernacular, from Latin vernacula vocabula, meaning native speech.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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