Irish Miscellania

Ireland is a lovely country with an interesting history and a lot of charming superstitions. I brought back a few.

If a bird flies into the house, it’s a portent of death.
A purse made from a weasel will never be empty.
It is unlucky to knit at night until you are certain the sheep are asleep.
It is fortunate to hear a cuckoo call, but only if it’s on your right side.

A stocking filled with hot potatoes and applied to the throat cures tonsillitis.
Boiled daisies are said to cure sore eyes.

The corner of a sheet that has been wrapped around a corpse is a cure for the headache, when tied around the head. It will also, if properly applied, reduce the swelling of a limb.

A crowing hen, a whistling girl, and a black cat are considered very unlucky. Beware of them in a house.

It’s a sign of bad luck to meet a magpie, a cat, or a lame woman on a trip.
If you meet a rooster at your door and it crows, your trip should be postponed.
Conversely, it is good to meet a white lamb in the early morning with sunlight on its face.

Here are some Irish proverbs:
Put silk on a goat, and it’s still a goat.
He who gets a name for early rising can stay in bed until midday.
If you want to be criticized, marry.
It is a bad hen that does not scratch herself.
It is the quiet pigs that eat the meal.
There is hope from the sea, but none from the grave.

And some good Irish curses:
May you leave without returning.
May you fall without rising.
Long travels to you.
May the cat eat you, and may the cat be eaten by the devil.

Many years of English oppression are evidenced in language. According to Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English:
To weep Irish is to shed insincere tears, c 19-20
Irish apricot/apple/lemon – potato, late c 18-19
Irish assurance – ‘a bold forward behavior’, mid 18-mid 19
Irish draperies – cobwebs, 1909
Irish evidence – false evidence
To have danced at an Irish wedding – to have two bloody eyes
Irishman’s dinner – a fast

The OED offers fewer.
Irish diamond – rock crystal
Irish blackguard – a kind of snuff

Published in: on August 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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