Getting there

Getting there

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How's The Crack?

One of the things you notice almost immediately in Ireland is that the Gaelic language is not dead. It's on the road signs, in the newspapers, and occasionally spoken. As often happens when two languages collide certain words become part of the lexicon of the other, and there is one Gaelic word in Ireland that stands out. The word is "craic", and it's pronounced "crack".

Craic is an amazingly useful word. Generally speaking it means fun or a good time, so you can say that an event was "good craic". It's also used in sentences such as "How's the craic?" , meaning "How are things?", or even "What's new?". For a word-lover like me this word is a treasure trove. It's an astonishingly useful word, and one we are sadly lacking in Canada. I'd love to see it incorporated in our slang as it could only enrich our language. There is a problem with this fine word, though.

While in a pub in Dublin an Irish friend was speaking to another man who told him that he "enjoys the craic". This is pronounced, of course, "enjoys the crack". My friend commented that this could easily be misunderstood (while telling me this story he asked if I knew what craic meant, and when I said I did he seemed skeptical - but when you see the word in the paper and on the side of every bloody bus eventually you look the damn thing up!). I think you're starting to see the issue with this word.

Can you imagine trying to use this word in Canada where it has no historical or cultural basis? Saying "That was some mighty fine craic last night!" would likely to lead to pointed questions at least, and possibly a visit from the RCMP. I'd certainly advise against shouting out "Who's up for some craic?" in a crowded Canadian bar. I could go on with different scenarios (and if I was in Ireland probably would, where baa-d jokes about sheep can last for days), but you get the idea. Sadly it seems use of this word could only lead to confusion and in some cases absolute mayhem, which is a shame.

I've become pretty attached to this word and the concept behind it. I'd love to use it on a more regular basis but unless I explained it to every person who may overhear I would do so at the risk to my own reputation. So while it may not become part of my spoken repertoire I'll likely use it more often when I write. It's just that good a word, and one I'm not willing to let get away.

I learned other Gaelic words, of course, like "taoiseach" and "slainte" but neither of these is as useful or charming as craic. Slainte is pretty handy, I guess, although it's of pretty limited use (I have to wonder if it's any coincidence that many Gaelic words are most useful when drinking).

I suppose it's just that craic sums up my recent journey to the Emerald Isle. Ireland, I would say, has some damn fine craic, and if you haven't been there to partake in the local craic you should consider it. Now go out and say that last sentence out loud at the bar and see what happens!

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