Conversation in Dublin is to be found everywhere, and it is its location that is critical to proper understanding.  The Pub is perhaps the most familiar, but before you start any conversation make sure you observe the proper etiquette.  Good conversation is also to be found as you attempt to travel around the city, visiting, shopping or seeking out Irish music and dancing, or if you're lucky, a special event.  For the more careful, sport and religion can be attempted, the later only advised with discretion as it one of the most awkward situations.  Above all, make sure you take your time while conversing.

The Street

Dublin is a tough city on the face of it. Island life has led to an instinctive wariness of strangers by the average Dub. This can be misinterpreted as aggression. Most of the aggression is ritualistic, so for the safety of the innocent it is essential to learn to know how to deal with street encounters.

The street is full of;
Hard chaws
Hard men

and other miscellaneous tough types. These characters roam the streets, foostering about, looking for excitement, or throwing shapes. It is advisable not to stare at these characters, especially if you do not have a Dubelin accent. These characters often feel that a rotweiller essential to keep up the hardman image and they tell people who even look crossways at it that they'll "bate de fuchkin bollix off them.  

If you are going to get by, you should cultivate a vacant stare, (looking straight ahead, or at the ground), a lumbering slouch, and a response of any meaningless grunt if they say ANYTHING to you. Never look these characters directly in the eye. If you do, it will be assumed that you want to challenge these individuals. They will therefore be forced to confront you.

  • Street aggression

You lookin' at me pal?
You callin' me a liar?
Wan yer teeth in a bag?

You say;

Sorry! (Always)

If confronted by these characters, you could be in deep shite. The best way out is to pretend you are Danish (you are very lucky if you really are Danish). This should have them baffled for long enough for you to leg it like jayzis to the nearest pub for safety.

The Pub

Dublin pubs, like American fast-food restaurants are to be found everywhere. Each seeks to create an atmosphere redolent of the city. Only a few succeed.

Drinking has become synonymous with Dublin, with images of debauchery and hangovers requiring hospital care and weeks off work. This is however a myth, perpetuated by a desire to attract tourists, most of whom are known to be alcoholics.  Drinking in Dublin is a very public hobby. It is done in a 'Public House' known as a 'Pub', which is nothing more than an extension of a Dublin home, supporting a wide variety of homely activities like; conversation, eating, drinking, dancing, and even sleeping. It does not exist for the disposal of brain cells. It is a vital Dublin amenity, more important than any library, school or playground. It is the forum for discussions ranging from the earnest, through the incomprehensible, to the trivial. The pub permeates all social activities between birth and death. This is culture, Dublin Culture. To partake in this culture, a few phrases would be useful.

First, some warnings.   Sobriety is regarded in Dublin as a pitiful affliction which can only be remedied by copious quantities on miscellaneous stouts and ales.   Dubliners are also invariably suspicious, especially of foreigners or culchies, and are constantly on the look out for being set up in conversation in the pub.

  • Invitation to go to pub

Are ye on for a pint?
Will ye go for a jar
Will we go for a few scoops?

You say;

Sure, 'twill do no harm
We'll go just for the one
A few wouldn't go astray at all
I'm only dyin' with the thirst!

  • Ordering a drink

What are you having
(Second drink) Will ye go again?
Pint of Guinness
Guinness and Murphy's

You say;

Mine's a pint / glass / short of ____
A bird never flew on one wing
Pint of the Black Stuff
I'll have a home and away

  • Enjoying a drink

How's that for ye?
How's that goin' down?

You say

I'm well pleased
'tis goin' down grand

  • Responding to inebriation

You say

Ye'd better go aisy
Steady yerself up there!

  • Categories of drinkers

You say

He can hold it
Fond of the bottle
Great man for the drink
A right alcho!

  • Levels of Intoxication

You say

Well on
Well oiled
Half pissed
Bolloxed / Bollixed

Conversations in a Dublin pub are always lively, and frequently argumentative.   Dubliners constantly question the veracity of suspicious statements with a contemptuous negation as the following example illustrates

  • Person 1

Manchester United are good

  • Person 2

They are in me arse!
The term ARSE can be freely replaced by any of the following;
- bollix,
- granny,
- brown,
- hole,
provided it is said with the appropriate degree of contempt.

Pub Etiquette

The crucial thing here is the "round" system, or way drinks are bought in pubs.   Each participant takes turns to "shout" an order. To the outsider, this may appear casual; you will not necessarily be told it's your round and other participants may appear only too happy to substitute for you.   But make no mistake, your failure to "put your hand in your pocket" will be noticed.    People will mention it the moment you leave the room, referring to you as a tight-ass bastard - or worse. The reputation will follow you to the grave, where after it will attach to your offspring and possibly theirs as well.   In some cases, it may become permanently enshrined in a family nickname.

One you have your drink, you can talk about it if nothing else comes to mind.

  • You feel





  • You say

A fine pint and no mistake
(It is said that the taste of a pint of stout can vary from pub to pub, or even from tap to tap in a pub.  The merits of good pint can give rise to hours of heated discussion, so you have been warned)

That must have been a bad pint

'Tis powerful stuff!

Late on in the evening you might heat someone shout "last drinks" accompanied by flashing of all the lights in the pub.   This is not to signal the onset of a Dublin nightmare of a drink shortage.   Instead this nightly event signals when you will probably be served more quickly at the bar.

Related to the pub scene

Mystery Bus:
The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you're in the toilet after your 10th pint, and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.

Mystery Taxi:
The taxi that arrives at your place on Saturday morning before you wake up, whisks away the stunner you slept with, and leaves a 10-pinter (someone that you'd only chat up after drinking at least 10 pints) in your bed instead.


Food is relatively unimportant to real Dubliners as it frequently reduces time available for the pub.  There are however some important Dublin food-groups that the visitor must be aware of.

  • Chips
French fries. Though in Dublin, they're more like steak fries: lovely and thick, slathered in grease, and unbelievably tasty.
  • Crisps
Potato chips. Usually available in two flavors: cheese n' onion or salt n' vinegar.
  • Bangers
Sausages. Thicker and curvier than hot dogs, and almost always fried or deep-fried, sometimes even in batter if you can imagine.
  • Mash
Mashed potatoes. This usually accompanies bangers
  • Fry
A collection of pretty much anything that can be fried, usually for breakfast.  So if you're proposing a fry, you'll need to contemplate eggs, bacon (rashers), bangers, black pudding (blood sausage), white pudding (more blood sausage), mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. Basically, a heart attack on a plate, but delicious.

Irish Traditional Music

Many visitors to Ireland make the mistake of thinking of traditional music as mere entertainment. In some parts of Ireland this may even be an accurate impression. However, in certain fundamentalist strongholds such as Clare, traditional music is founded in a strict belief system which has been handed on from generation to generation. This is overseen by bearded holy men, sometimes called "Mullahs", who ensure that the music is played in accordance with laws laid down in the 5th Century. Under this system, "bodhran players" are required to cover their faces in public. Other transgressions, such as attempting to play guitar in a traditional session, are punishable by the loss of one or both hands. A blind eye may be turned to the misbehaviour of foreigners, but it's best not to push it.   As a result a conversation guide on the matter is left to a braver soul!

Irish Dancing

There are two main kinds of Irish dancing:
(1) Riverdance, about which everyone is talking, which is now simultaneously running in every major city except Ulan Bater and which some economists believe is responsible for the Irish economic boom; and
(2),Real Irish dancing, in which men do not wear frilly blouses and you still may not express yourself, except in a written note to the adjudicators.   For this reason it is rare that conversation arises


When a sporting event gets popular interest in Dublin, there is no getting away from it in conversation. Talking about it becomes serious business, and it is important to take part. To survive and develop the necessary skills you will need some information on the sports likely to be the subject of conversation.

  • Sport frequently talked about


Gaelic Football
Horse racing

Road Bowls (if in Cork)
Sheaf tossing (if lost)


Played with a stick that looks like an ancient hockey stick
Like hurling, but without the stick
An occasion for lots of gambling
Conversations are about games played outside Ireland
Squash without rackets!
Rolling a steel ball along a road
Throwing bundles of straw over a bar

Now that you know the likely sport to be talked about, here's what to say;

  • Express encouragement

You say

Up ye boyo!
Give it a lash
We'll show ye/yey!

  • Express advice

Mark yer man
Lob it in
On yer bike (ie get busy)
Get up, get up! (attack)

  • Express frustration

What are ye at, ye lazy fecker?
Are ye goin to play or what?
What the devil are ye at?
Take him/her outa it

  • Post event comment

They gave 'em a thrashing
(S)he's a powerful player
It's a wonder yee did ner win
Yee were badly stuck
The ref were agin ye

In contrast to other locations, where it is the taking part in sport is what counts, in Dublin, taking part in conversation about any sport is taken very seriously.   Every move or incident is discussed, and a question you're likely to hear often is "Were ye at the match?"


WARNING: Do not underestimate the challenge of moving around Dublin. You may consider Dublin small, but don't be fooled. Your mode of transport needs careful consideration before you set off on any trip.

  • Car

Preferred means of travel by Dubliners who are generally 'love roads'. Dubliners will sit gridlocked for hours.

  • Bus

Transport that operates on the principle that everyone only wants to travel to the city centre.

  • DART (Dublin Area Really Packed Like Sardines Transport System)

Tram that rolls along the coast without a decent view of the sea.

  • Bike

Target for car, bus and lorry drivers, the use of which is deterred by road design and conditions.

WARNING: If you want to use a bike, do not ask for a ride as this will be interpreted as a request for sexual activity.

  • Shanks-mare (Walking)

Quite successful in many parts of the city, relatively safer if you are intending to 'take a sup', but is regarded by all other road users as the lowest form of evolution.

True Dubliners have lots of experience in sitting down back of bus and terrorising people as well as creating graffiti on seats. Standing at the door of the DART (Dublin Area Really Packed Like Sardines Transport System) and wishing your wares upon 'every bitta skert' that comes near you has also been known to be popular.

Buying a map of Dublin is only recommended if you need this kind of souvenir, it certainly will not help you to avoid getting lost.   A map of Dublin will not work, no matter which way up you hold it.   Getting lost however is just another opportunity to engage in conversation so that you can be put on the right road.   So also is mechanical trouble with a car, bike or anything else.

There are a few essential phrases that you must be familiar with if you are to venture anywhere on a Dublin road

  • Phrases

Tearing along / booting along
Car up yer arse
Go aisy (pron. Ay-zee)
Put you right
Shanks Mare


Driving fast
Car close behind
Slow down
Show you the way
On foot / Walking

  • Buying fuel / petrol

You say

Fiver's worth
Tenner's worth
Twenty quid's worth etc.

  • Car trouble

It's banjaxed
It's a bit of a banger
It's a bit of a crock
The auld XXXX is givin' a bit of bother


It's broken
Its old and not working well
It's a bit old
XXXX isn't working

  • Types of car

Bleedin' beemer


Fast German car
Really fast German car

Finally, in Dublin, riding is considered sexual activity, so if you want to use a bicycle, do not look for a ride. You should look for a bike, a cycle, or a bicycle. Similarly, if you return you should say, 'I went for a cycle' - NEVER 'I had a ride' - unless you happen to have been lucky!


Dublin has two time zones: (1) Greenwich Mean Time and (2) "Local" time.

Local time can be anything between ten minutes and three days behind GMT, depending on the position of the earth and the whereabouts of whoever has the keys. Again, the Dublin concept of time has been influenced by the thinking of 20th century physicists, who hold that it can only be measured by reference to another body and can even be affected by factors like conversation. For instance, a policeman entering a licensed premise in Dublin late at night is a good example of another body from whom it can be reliably inferred that it is fact closing time. When this happens, a short conversation about departing is the advised option. Shockingly, the relativity of time argument is still not accepted as a valid defence in Dublin courts.


In Dublin, shopping is called doing the messages. If someone asks you if you want any messages, you are not being asked for your e-mail address - you are being asked if you want to buy something. In a shop, when an assistant asks you if you are all right, its not you health that's of concern - it means, "what do you want to buy". When buying, 'I' is replaced by 'us', as in "give us a bar of chocolate". As selling is considered a favour to you by the seller, Dubliners frequently explain why they wish to buy something. For example, do not buy potatoes, buy "spuds for the dinner", or "slices of cheese for a sandwich". Finally, if someone tells you that something is a bit dear, it is not of sentimental value, - it is expensive!

Do not expect any recognised standards of customer care in Dublin shops.   It can be slow, sloppy of erratic.   Inefficiency though is often compensated by opportunities to engage in conversation or to listen to the life history of the customer in front of you while waiting to pay for a newspaper.   Dublin shops expect their customers to be humble, self effacing, with an obvious reluctance to trouble a shop assistant with demands for the best for his/her money.   Your experiences shopping will however give you further opportunities for conversation.   Dubliners will not complain of a bad shopping experience, but will instead tell their friends relations and anyone who will listen, apart from the relevant premises management, thus causing a poisoning of goodwill and possibly as a result the eventual demise of the premises concerned.


If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit a Dubliner in his/her home, or be visited by a Dubliner, there are a few phrases that can be important

  • Visitor calling

You say

Come in and take the weight off yer feet
Come in outa the cold

  • Visitor arrives

You say

Sit yerself down
Plank yerself down there by the fire

  • Offer of refreshment

You say or hear (usually a friendly order)

You'll have a drop of tea?
You'll have a bite to eat?
Are you for cake? (Would you like some cake)

  • Initial reluctance to accept offers

You say

Don't go to any trouble for me
I won't be staying long
I don't want to be putting you out

  • Possible desire for something else

You say or hear

Maybe you'd prefer something stronger?
Do you take a drop?
Maybe you're a coffee wo(man)

  • Reply / acceptance

You say

I'll have what ever you're having
Only if you are having one yerself

Events & Special occasions

Certain events have unique conversation requirements to pass off smoothly

  • Christening / Birthday

You say or hear

The years are not long passing
You're shovin' on
I'm not getting any younger
Ya don't look a day past . .

  • Accidents

You say or hear

Could happen to a bishop, and frequently does
It could be an awful lot worse

  • Engagements

You say or hear

The big day won't be long comin'
Have ye set the date yet?

  • Weddings

You say or hear

They've got it all before them
It's great for them all the same

  • Separations

You say or hear

Aren't ye better off without him/her
(S)he's a load off anyone's back
'Twas the childer I was worried about

  • Funerals

You say or hear

(S)he was a lovely (wo)man
Sure, (s)he never harmed anyone
They won't know where they are without him/her
(S)he went sudden
(S)he's in good hands now

Awkward Situations

Conversation can lead to trouble, so it is best that you beware of potential danger

  • Trouble signs

Would you like your teeth in a bag?
Your blood is worth bottlin'!
You've got a gall!
Your in danger of cuttin' yerself!

You are in danger of

A fight
A warning
A severe warning
Not simply a child born out of wedlock, but also an adjective of angry frustration: "Where's my bastard coat?"


Despite your enthusiasm to converse, not everyone needs to know your business. To help with discretion, there are a few useful phrases to discourage the passing on of information without offence.

  • Answers to questions

You say or hear

Hazard a guess
Why d'ya ask?
What would you say
Haven't a notion
Sure a guard wouldn't ask me that!

  • Evasion

You use 'bit' to cloud conversation

I'm here on a bit of business
I like a bit of this and that

  • Belittle

You add 'een' to convey insignificance

I've a pieceen of land
I'm staying in a wee houseen

  • Uncertainty

You add 'ish' to express uncertainty

I'm fortyish (about 40 years old)
The towel is dryish
I'll see you at eightish (8 o'clock)


Ireland remains a deeply religious country, with the two main denominations being "us" and "them". In the unlikely event you are asked which group you belong to, the correct answer is:
"I'm an atheist, thank God". Then change the subject.

School (pronounced Skew-elle)

Mention of school is usually followed by a spit on the pavement.   Traditionally every Dub has been to one of two types,
a) - Fee paying where Dubs do things like art and languages, sit exams and learn to be better Dubs.
b) - de brudders (also known as those ignorant feckers, or that crowd of ba*tards, or The Christian Brothers.   Here you learned Irish, Irish history, Irish culture, and how to avoid getting the shit hit out of you by big men (usually not from Dublin) in dresses.

Here are some expressions from skew-elle that the average Dub will never forget;
  -  Mala scoile (pronounced mawlah skullya) - school bag
  -  Sambos - sandwiches
  -  Eckker - homework
  -  Mitching - on the hop or playing truant
  -  de Header - School principal
  -  Mill - fight
  -  Loosies - Cigarettes bought one at a time
  -  Snared - caught doing something against the rules


This is an all-purpose expression of determination or clarification. "Right, is that a gin & tonic for you and a pint for your friend?" or "Right, you'll be coming home with me then?" 

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Most recent version Wednesday December 13, 2006
To be updated from time to time
© N. O'Byrne

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