On the Belfast Telegraph website there’s a hilarious feature entitled ‘ You Know You’re From Belfast When... ’ which highlights some of our quintessential quirks and comic colloquialisms. I say ‘our’ because I’ve been on this side of the water almost long enough to start feeling like an honorary Laganside-lifer.
For example: ‘You know you’re from Belfast when you’re never cold but sometimes Baltic’ — which really made me laugh because that is precisely how I described the weather over the phone to my dad in England recently, and then immediately had to explain the expression.
As a ‘blow-in’, I may have kept my English accent and my Manchester mentality, but the distinctive lingo is definitely starting to stick. So, to mark the up-coming 20th anniversary of my arrival in Norn Iron (no flowers, please) I have compiled my own version, along with explanations for fellow befuddled |ex-pats:
You Know You’re Practically From Belfast When You Hear Yourself saying: ‘Ach ...’ at the beginning of any sentence, on any subject, for no apparent reason. Actual translation unknown. Often followed by ‘Aye’, in which case the compound use constitutes a generic affirmative.
‘Bout ye?’ is used when you meet someone you haven’t seen for a while. Short for ‘what about you?’ as in ‘how are you doing?’ it is merely rhetorical, simply requiring a reciprocal ‘bout you?’ in response and is generally emphasised by a sharp head-jolt and raised eyebrows.
‘Wind yer neck in!’: This is Belfast for ‘Calm down’ which is Scouse for shut up. Origin: Possibly the Exorcist.
‘Catch yerself on!’ was originally a uniquely |Ulster expression popularised by the characterised Jim McDonald off Corry. See Also: ‘Wise Up!’
‘Wise Up!’ translates to ‘Don’t talk nonsense’ or the more common urban slang ‘Get Real!’
‘My head was turned’ is often used by mothers, teachers or anyone in charge of raucous children. It means angered, frazzled or distracted. Or all three. Origin: possibly The Exorcist. See Also ‘Up to High Doe’
‘Up to High Doe’ is thought to be a musical reference as in Doe, Ray, Me. An expression of exasperation or anger, as in ‘she does my head in!’
‘Does my head in’ means ‘really annoys’. Often used by school children about an annoying teacher.
‘Raging’, as in ‘I was raging!’, means I was livid/up to high doe/my head was turned.
‘Are yous getting?’ is essential terminology for use almost exclusively in the service industry, chip-shops and record stores. ‘Yous’ being the plural of ‘you’ and ‘getting’ means ‘being served’. A Belfastism for the universal ‘May I help you?’ Usually followed by ‘Is that you?’ which means ‘are you finished?’
‘Give my head peace!’ is a relatively self-explanatory exclamation; interchangeable with ‘Would you ever shut the f*** up?!’‘Within a beagle’s gowl’ means ‘very close’ as in ‘The Peelers came within a beagle’s gowl of my stash’. ‘Peelers’: Once used universally to describe the police force, now only used in NI as in ‘I smell bacon — the peelers are here’ (origin: Robert Peel)
For ‘Bake’, read ‘face’. And ‘Bucket-bake’ is an insult almost exclusively directed at nagging females. ‘Dead On’ is Belfast for ‘Nice One!’, and Manchester for ‘That’s great!’‘Quare’ means ‘Very’ or ‘Extremely’ as in ‘That was a quare geg!’ (That was very funny or a great laugh.) ‘Big Lad’ is an expression used by Jim McDowell to greet any male of any height, shape or size, and ‘To dander’ is to wander, go slowly, stroll. As in ‘I’ll just take a wee dander over to the pub.’
Any more suggestions, feel free to contribute!