Irish Slang – Sorry

old Irish man laughingOf all the countries in the world that commonly speak English, the Irish are known particularly for their deft command of the language.

What you may not know is that the language arrived on some strange shores when it crossed the Irish sea. While visitors may understand most everything that’s said (aside from a few extremely thick local accents), it’s usually the little bits of slang and mild differences in certain words that confuses visitors.

This is the thirty-third in a series I’ve been publishing of some common Irish slang that used to confuse wifey and myself when we first arrived.

Sorry – A mild excuse, attention-seeking preposition or conventional start of a conversation.

You will be shocked at the number of times you hear Irish folks use the word “sorry.”

“Sorry” is used almost reflexively in Ireland. It heralds the start of most conversations with strangers (“Sorry, do you have the time?”), shop clerks (“Sorry, how much are these shoes?”) or officials (“Sorry, how long will I be in here?”).

It’s also used when seeking passage (in a theatre or crowd: “Sorry, my seat is right next to you.”), seeking attention (“Sorry, sir? Sir, sorry? Sorry?”) or seeking something to say (“Sorry, what?”)

In the states a lot of these instances would be covered by an “excuse me” or “pardon me,” which assumes that one’s indiscretion will be forgiven by common courtesy. Not so in Ireland – the collective Catholic guilt necessitates a proper apology; one should never assume one WILL be forgiven, no matter how small the matter. *grin* In any case, it is not necessary to respond to an Irish “sorry” with anything more than a “no problem,” “yes?” or a small nod of the head.

Hilariously, should you be recipient of a true apology from an Irish person expect to be inundated with gifts, pints, fruit cakes, proposals of marriage and/or eloquent descriptions of the person’s failings and how deeply they regret their actions.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our series of Irish Slang.