Tuesday, June 07, 2022


Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star


MOST likely at some stage during your day today you may verbally or mentally use some colourful language. We call it swearing, cursing, using profanity. No doubt you’ve heard it referred to as effing and blinding on occasions. There are folk who appear to use swear words very naturally at the drop of a hat and it’s often quite funny.

In Ireland we have a particular relationship with ‘bad language’. It’s universal, but no one curses like the Paddy. Whether it’s the accent or the tone, I’m not sure, but we bring it to a whole other level. I’ve heard and overheard copious conversations involving fellas mainly who just crack you up the way they competently mangle the English language and pepper it with cursing.

A few years ago I had the good fortune of visiting Poland on a work related trip. Several Irish companies had reps there and they came from various backgrounds. The stay was brief and it was all to show off Irish products to prospective buyers. Needless to say, when the work was done and the meetings over, there was a window in the evening for some socialising. The Irish delegation duly made the most of their downtime and soaked up a little local atmosphere.


‘No malice or vitriol intended, just a scattergun spreading of choice language he’s probably been using all his life’


One company, who shall remain nameless, had sent a couple of chaps over to endeavour to procure a contract with a local firm. They were hugely successful in their mission and a little celebration was obviously in order as the lads proceeded to horse in to a feed of pints. This, I subsequently learned, was a regular occurrence. The attitude clearly being work hard, play hard. I found them great craic to be honest, but no way would I have spent an entire evening in their company as I’d fear for my liver. I would have been well out of my depth. I like a drink at the best of times, but I know my limitations as Clint Eastwood would say. Never go toe to toe with heavyweights.

The boys were having a ball. The more pints they consumed, the louder they got. There was a fascinating exchange between one of them and a banker who was from up the country. Our jolly tippler, upon hearing he worked with one of the major banks, launched in to a string of expletives as to how they were robbing the country blind and were nothing, basically, but a shower of crooks and gangsters. All this done most jovially without even a hint of malice or animosity. The recipient of the tirade could only stand by and hear his profession being trampled on, but yet probably finding this little guy pretty funny by the same token. Listening to the verbal assault, I couldn’t help think only an Irishman would get away with it. Calling someone a “thieving bastard” has to be delivered in the right tone or it becomes rather nasty, not at all what our well sozzled friend intended I’m sure. The ‘C’ word was also liberally used frequently and, to be honest, the delivery was more akin to that of a good comedian having a go at someone or something in a stage show, than that of a disgruntled gent who’d had one or three too many.

Another time, I was in the company of a local gentleman who shall also remain nameless who constantly referred to various people using the ‘C’ word to describe them. Here too, no malice or vitriol intended, just a scattergun spreading of choice language he’s probably been using all his life.

Only last week my significant other was in a queue at a Trade Counter in a local hardware. The gentleman ahead of her at the counter could clearly be heard asking for “some of those effing screws over there and some effing bolts”. He wasn’t in bad humour and not noticeably in any kind of hurry. In fact, he seemed quite a nice gentleman apparently, just totally unable to string a sentence together without turning the air blue so to speak. It was, I’m told, amusing.

It’s comical because there is no aggression or threat. It’s simply a part of speech for some people who probably don’t even realise they talk like this all the time.

There is a story of a little boy born into a household where expletives were commonplace. On his first day in school only minutes had elapsed before his first bad word. It wasn’t long before he was in trouble and the headmistress was called in. The child was totally confused and when asked by the headmistress what he had done wrong to the teacher his reply was, “I don’t know what the [email protected]*k I did.” Later, when the parents were brought in the father is reported to have said, “Well I don’t know where he learned it, he didn’t [email protected]*ing hear it at home.”

The scale of profanity and swearing is a large one. One man’s ‘feck it’ and ‘damn’ is hard to measure against the more extreme and perhaps less acceptable expletives. It’s common to be referred to as a ‘hoor’ or perhaps if you’ve earned praise, an ‘effing legend’. One of our dear old Irish expressions I love is one used when someone is attempting to express incredulity at something that they’ve just been told. The response “gwan ta f…k” always cracks me up. It beats “that’s amazing” hands down.

It’s akin to an art form when used by some. Why bother with vocabulary when you can just describe someone you don’t like as a ‘bollocks’. It brings surprising satisfaction when uttered and just sounds appropriate no matter what the situation. A huge hit with profanity merchants, it surely is up there with the all-time great curse words.

I think one thing that’s inescapable, though, is that it really is so much easier to express the seriousness of your feelings or intent when using certain words. They can elicit a visceral response. If someone cuts you up in traffic, chances are you won’t be heard uttering a phrase such as “that rotter just pulled out in front of me.” You know full well when you’re in certain situations, you will let loose with gusto. I’ve never yet watched a Liverpool or Waterford match on the TV without shouting all kinds of less than complimentary stuff at referees and such. It just isn’t the same when a goal is scored against your team and you go “Oh dear”.

I’d wager if there were an Olympic event for swearing, the Irish would clean up. We do it so flippin’ well.

Comments are closed.

By Timmy Ryan
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

More Views

DARREN SKELTON: The People in the Park

View from the Green Room: Future stars

More by this Journalist

Time Out with Timmy: Talk Isn’t So Cheap