Going Places Educational Travel Blog - 5 Supposedly-Irish Sayings and Their Real Meanings
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March 13, 2014

5 Supposedly-Irish Sayings and Their Real Meanings

1. LUCK OF THE IRISH

Not actually a phrase that originated in Ireland, but here in America, instead.  During the gold rush in the 1800s, many successful gold miners were Irish immigrants, or Irish-Americans.  The phrase had both positive and negative connotations.  On the positive side, it meant “extreme good fortune”; but its negative connotation suggested that it was only by pure luck, not intelligence or skill, that the Irish fellas became some of the most successful gold miners.

2. ERIN GO BRAGH

Loosely translated, this Anglicized version of the Irish phrase Éirinn go Brách means “Ireland Forever”, or “Ireland until the end of time”, and signifies one’s allegiance to Ireland.  

3. BEGORRA

This jocular utterance not really used by the Irish since the 19th century is simply an emphatic statement, sometimes used as a euphemistic substitute for the phrase “by God” or “of God” (think: “be gor” or “by gor” if pronounced with an Irish brogue) – “It’s a beautiful day, begorra!”  Nowadays it is more likely to be used in a stereotypical, and not particularly flattering, context, mostly by Hollywood.

4. MURPHY’S LAW

“If anything can go wrong, it will.”  Or, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” appears to have actually originated at Edwards Air Force base after World War II when a Captain Edward A. Murphy, an Air Force engineer, said “If there is any way to do it wrong [he] will find it,” in reference to an error made by a technician working at the base.  Aerospace engineers quickly caught on to the sentiment, dubbed it “Murphy’s Law”, and the name, with its accompanying bad vibe, stuck.  

5. TOP O’ THE MORNIN’

The exact origins of this centuries-old Irish greeting are filled with speculation.  Therefore, probably no one really knows what it means, or where it originated.  One interesting theory is that it came from the delivery of non-homogenized milk, in which cream rises to the top of the milk container, which is a good thing; milk would be delivered in the morning, cream would be on top.  More likely, it simply means “good morning”, or “hello”, and most Irish people will tell you that native Irish people never use this phrase, which evidently originated in England.

 






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