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English As We Speak It in Ireland   By: (1827-1914)

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E text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Keith Edkins, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (

Transcriber's note:

In this e text e breve is represented by [)e], a breve by [)a], and o macron by [=o].

Page numbers enclosed by curly braces (example: {25}) have been incorporated to facilitate the use of the Vocabulary and Index (Chapter XIII).



P. W. JOYCE, LL.D., T.C.D., M.R.I.A.

One of the Commissioners for the Publication of the Ancient Laws of Ireland

Late Principal of the Government Training College, Marlborough Street, Dublin

Late President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Ireland


London: Longmans, Green, & Co. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd. 1910



This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland.

As the Life of a people according to our motto is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it Irish and English. The part played by each will be found specially set forth in Chapters IV and VII; and in farther detail throughout the whole book.

The articles and pamphlets that have already appeared on this interesting subject which are described below are all short. Some are full of keen observation; but very many are mere lists of dialectical words with their meanings. Here for the first time in this little volume of mine our Anglo Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.

I have been collecting materials for this book for more than twenty years; not indeed by way of constant work, but off and on as detailed below. The sources from which these materials were directly derived are mainly the following.

First. My own memory is a storehouse both of idiom and vocabulary; for the good reason that from childhood to early manhood I spoke like those among whom I lived the rich dialect {vi} of Limerick and Cork and indeed to some extent speak it still in the colloquial language of everyday life.

I have also drawn pretty largely on our Anglo Irish Folk Songs of which I have a great collection, partly in my memory and partly on printed sheets; for they often faithfully reflect our Dialect.

Second. Eighteen years ago (1892) I wrote a short letter which was inserted in nearly all the Irish newspapers and in very many of those published outside Ireland, announcing my intention to write a book on Anglo Irish Dialect, and asking for collections of dialectical words and phrases. In response to this I received a very large number of communications from all parts of Ireland, as well as from outside Ireland, even from America, Australia, and New Zealand all more or less to the point, showing the great and widespread interest taken in the subject. Their importance of course greatly varied; but many were very valuable. I give at the end of the book an alphabetical list of those contributors: and I acknowledge the most important of them throughout the book.

Third. The works of Irish writers of novels, stories, and essays depicting Irish peasant life in which the people are made to speak in dialect. Some of these are mentioned in Chapter I., and others are quoted throughout the book as occasion requires. {vii}

Fourth. Printed articles and pamphlets on the special subject of Anglo Irish Dialect. Of these the principal that I have come across are the following:

'The Provincialisms of Belfast and Surrounding District pointed out and corrected,' by David Patterson. (1860.)

'Remarks on the Irish Dialect of the English Language,' by A. Hume, D.C.L. and LL.D. (1878.)

'A Glossary of Words in use in the Counties of Antrim and Down,' by Wm. Hugh Patterson, M.R.I.A. (1880) a large pamphlet might indeed be called a book.

'Don't, Pat,' by 'Colonel O'Critical': a very good and useful little pamphlet, marred by a silly title which turns up perpetually through the whole pamphlet till the reader gets sick of it... Continue reading book >>

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