10 Things You Might Start Saying If You Move to Northern Ireland

After spending 3 months (today!) here in Northern Ireland, we’ve learned a bunch of new ways to say things! Some of these are said all over the UK and some are specific to Northern Ireland. Either way, we didn’t say them before we came but now they’re becoming part of our regular vocabulary.
1. Wee
This is such a wonderful wee adjective and it is used to describe anything and everything! Obviously it means “small”, but it’s not always used to refer to small things. I’ve come to realize that it’s used in the same way Americans would say “little”.
Look at her wee dress! My wee man is 6 months old. We took a wee drive up the coast and had a wee ice cream. There’s a wee parent/toddler group on Thursdays. Would anyone like a wee tea or coffee? We’ve also heard people refer to their children as “wee’uns” (wee ones).
2. In Good Form
This phrase is used to talk about someone who’s in a good mood, usually a child. Recently a friend was telling me that her child had stayed up late but was still “in good form”. I think it’s more than the kid just being in a good mood; it means the child is generally behaving well too.
3. I’ll Say to Him
This one I love because it is so literal. This might be something Americans would say but (at least in the Midwest) I’m used to hearing the phrase “I’ll tell him”.
“I’ll say to him now about dinner on Saturday.”
4. “would be…”
I think we all know the common uses for would, like “He said he would do his homework.” and “We would always go to Grandma’s for Christmas.” But here in N.I. I’ve noticed an additional use that seems like it’s interchangeable with the present tense. Instead of saying “I’m hungry too”, people say “I would be hungry too.” Or, “She would have brown hair” to describe someone who currently has brown hair. People ask us, “Would you be in Northern Ireland until December?” …yes, we would be! (we are!)
5. Aubergine/Courgette
These words may look French to the average American and it turns out, they are! I was recently served tea in a cup with a round purple vegetable painted on it and I exclaimed, “Oh! An eggplant!” Everyone looked at me weird and that’s when I learned that, here in Northern Ireland, it’s not an eggplant but an aubergine (OH-ber-zheen). That makes an ordinary eggplant seem extraordinary doesn’t it? And another, courgette (coor-ZHET), which turns your average zucchini into something fancy.
6. “So they are/ So he does”
It seems that everyone we know ends their sentences with a wee recap of what they just said. My son loves to ride his bike so he does. They’re going away for the weekend so they are. I’m cooking dinner tonight so I am. It’s also used in the negative (“He doesn’t work anymore so he doesn’t.”) and in the past tense (“We used to have a cat so we did.”). This is one of my favorites!
7. Surname
This one is a simple enough adjustment for us and is used to talk about someone’s last name. I just like saying it because it sounds so much more proper than “last name”.
8. Trousers
This one’s important. In my American world, trousers are pants. In Northern Ireland, pants are what you wear underneath your trousers. Our friends say, “Oh we know what you mean because we watch American TV!” But still, I don’t want to get caught telling someone I like their pants 🙂
9. “What age is he?”
This just means, “how old is he?” and is often used in conjunction with “What do you call him?” (What’s his name?). Both of these are easy to transition to and i quickly adjusted my small talk with other moms to include these phrases.
10. “Half Ten on the 15th of May”
Telling time here in Northern Ireland is a bit different. Instead of ten thirty, you say half ten. 7:15 is not seven fifteen, but rather “a quarter past seven”. And 1:35 isn’t one thirty-five, but “twenty-five to two”. The date is also switched around from what I’m used to. My birthday isn’t July 26th, but the 26th of July! Most of the world positions their months and days like this, so it’s really we Americans who are doing it backward!
So there you have it! Our updated vocabulary. This list doesn’t include words that are just pronounced differently like fillet, vehicle, or tomato, or the whole host of baby-related words that are different. I could write a whole separate post on those!