Irish slang – “t” vs “th”

old Irish man laughingSo you speak English. Why not travel to the land of saints and scholars where English has been lyrically embellished since the dark ages; a week or two in Ireland and I won’t even need a translation dictionary!

A few weeks of hearing your language dancing gracefully and coherantly across the Irish tongue might be more challenging than you think! Ireland may be a predominately english-speaking nation, but the thing that tickled my ears the most when I first moved here and that tends to confuse our stateside guests is some of the slang. So, below is the twenty-fifth in a series I’m publishing on some common Irish slang that used to confuse us when we first arrived.

T vs TH – Chances are, most places in Ireland, speakers will swap these two sounds, depending where they fall in a word.

It’s a well-known idiosyncrasy of the Irish accent that words beginning with “th” get changed to a hard “t” sound. If you’re not prepared for it, it can cause some confusion.

Despite the well-known Irish preference for hard “t” at the beginning of a word, Irish folks actually have no problems pronouncing the “th” sound. In fact, a hard “t” occurring mid-word will probably get changed to a “th.” However, should a “th” sound occur naturally mid-word, some regional dialects swap it for a hard “d” sound. Confused? Perhaps some examples will help:

Three – “tree” [Initial “th” becomes a hard “t”]
Butter – “buth-er” [mid-word hard “t” becomes a “th”]
Other – “udder” [mid-word “th” becomes a hard “d”]

Here’s a few more:

The – “tuh” [Initial “th” becomes a hard “t”]
Better – “beth-er” [mid-word hard “t” becomes a “th”]
Brother – “brudder” [mid-word “th” becomes a hard “d”]