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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C

The Irish For All the characters you know - good, bad or total craic vortex

Darach Ó Séaghdha has a typecast character for every letter in the alphabet – the funny one, the vulgar one, the one with notions or the one who sucks all the craic clean out of the room.

This the latest dispatch from our columnist Darach Ó Séaghdha, author of the award-winning and bestselling Motherfoclóir. Every Sunday morning, Darach will be regaling (re-Gaeling?) us with insights on what the Irish language says about Ireland, our society, our past and our present. Enjoy.

FOR INTROVERTS LIKE like myself, December is the most socially awkward month of the year.

Before we can wrap ourselves in the exquisite solitude of January, we must participate in the forced levity of office parties, smile politely at carol-singers, fail disastrously at being down with our nieces and nephews, and try to remember the names of our relatives’ relatives.

As the ancient Dublin taxi driver seanfhocal goes: ‘you’ll need a holiday after your holiday’.

So what kinds of strange characters will you find yourself chatting to this December?

There’s an Irish word for each one of them, and while I’m a little late to make an advent calendar, this week I’ve listed one for each letter of the alphabet. The traditional Irish alphabet, mind you, the one without Js, Xs, Vs and Zs.

Ardcheann: Ard means high and ceann means head, so this word is used for a person who has a very high opinion of themselves. Notions.

Brogús: You could use this word to refer to someone who’s a total craic vortex, with no sense of humour whatsoever. If you don’t know who the brogús is in your workplace, it’s probably you.

Caidreamhach: This word means a person who is outgoing and enjoys social gatherings, someone who can be taken out publicly without making a holy show of you. As an adjective, it can be used to describe tame animals.

Drúchtíneach: Derived from drúchtín, a tiny drop of dew or a bubble, this means someone who is small and cute. However, one of the other meanings of drúchtín is a slug, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone could mean that.

Ealaíontóir: Maybe you did ealaín in school and you recognise that this word might have something to do with art and it does. It means an arty, crafty, tricky person who you really should keep an eye on.

Fuaramán: You’re in work and one colleague wants the window open but the other, wearing their Canadian Goose coat and woolly hat, wants the heat on at full blast.

When they get their wish they do not remove their cosy layers but greedily place themselves in front of the radiators. This person is a fuaramán – someone who is awfully sensitive to the cold. You know one.

Gastóg: As well as meaning a smart remark, a gastóg can also mean a gal who doles out such smart remarks. She’s the one doing the running commentary as the secret Santa gifts are opened.

Hoibín Host: This is Irish for that individual, usually a child, who is carried in the piggyback style. 

Íotach: This means a thirsty person, possibly one who is shameless at the sight of free drink.

Líofóg: Coming from the Irish word for fluency, this means a gal who is chatty, outgoing and irreverent.

Másach: Someone with a big bottom. Remarkably, this isn’t the only Irish word for this phenomenon.

Nocht: Sometimes colleagues have romantic encounters at office Christmas parties, and this spontaneous love is tenderly expressed in a discreet corner of the workplace.

Nocht means a naked person; anocht, an nocht means ‘the naked person, tonight’. 

Otrachán: This means a vulgar, dirty, inappropriate person. Maybe they were deemed appropriate in the Christmases of yesteryear, but not anymore.

Pógaire: A kisser. You can’t spell pógaire without gaire (laughter), so don’t kiss anyone who doesn’t make you laugh (intentionally).

Rachmasaí: A wealthy person or capitalist… and isn’t that was Christmas is all about?

Staic: This versatile word can mean handsome man, a heartthrob… or a big stake.

Trumpadóir: Often assumed to be a new word, the 1977 foclóir defines this word as “a loudmouthed person, a prater”.

Únfartálaí: Finally, we have this word for someone who presents the characteristics of a pig wallowing (únfairt) in the mud – messy, self-indulgent and a little restless.

While English speakers might notice a familiar word within this entry, has nothing to do with farting.

Darach’s new book, ‘Craic Baby: Dispatches From A Rising Language’ is published by Head of Zeus and available in bookshops now.

 He runs @theirishfor Twitter account and the @motherfocloir podcast.

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