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Irish Slang – Blackguard

old Irish man laughingYou speak English. You’ve heard most of Ireland does as well. You may have heard the Irish speak the best english in the world. In any case, the last thing you may be expecting is communication difficulties on your visit to the emerald isle.

Most of the potentential pitfalls in your conversations may come from the slang used here. This is the thirty-seventh in a series I’ve been publishing of some common Irish slang that used to confuse us when we first arrived.

Blackguard = A bad person. Or, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “a term of the utmost opprobrium.” Utmost opprobrium: sometimes I just love the English language.

Always pronounced “blaggard”, this is a word used primarily by the older Irish generation (in instances, it should be noted, where the younger uses something more profane [like bollocks]).

It’s also used as a verb to indicate someone’s behavior: “He’s only blaggardin’ ya”.

The origins of this word have been lost to time, but the OED dates it back to the 15th century. It is thought to refer either to the colour of someone’s soul (black) or perhaps the colour worn by the stern, elite guards of the King.

My first thought when I heard it was of someone guarding a furnace or maybe denizens of underworld? Then again, my imagination is known to get carried away with me . . .