15 strange phrases and idioms you would hear at an Irish university

Aoife O’Mara
Aoife O’Mara

17 November 2020 • 6 min read

Although the primary spoken language in Ireland is English, there are some strange phrases and idioms that will baffle even the most well-read. As such, Irish universities can be a minefield to navigate for even the most fluent of English speakers. The Irish have undoubtedly crafted and manipulated the English language to create their own, often unfamiliar, lingo. 

With different meanings for words, to just outright wacky and weird phrase formulations, some phrases and idioms are just downright strange. No doubt that within your first week at an Irish university, you will hear some of these strange phrases escape from the lips of your fellow Irish classmates. 

Here are 15 strange phrases and idioms you would hear at a university, along with the meanings for each. 

Acting the maggot

If someone is making a fool out of themselves, you would say that they are “acting the maggot”. This phrase can also be used to describe an object that is malfunctioning or not acting normally. 

In a sentence: Ah Henry, you were absolutely acting the maggot last night. You’re lucky you didn’t get in trouble with the missus.

As happy as Larry

No one is quite sure who Larry is, but whoever he is he is an extremely happy boy. If you are as happy as Larry, it means that you are extremely content and satisfied with the situation.

In a sentence: You should have seen his face when the lecturer cancelled the test, he was as happy as Larry.

Bad dose

While “dose” in the English language is recognised as a measure of quantity for medicine, in Ireland it has a completely different meaning. To say someone is a bad dose means that someone is an absolute pain. 

In a sentence: She’s a bad dose, I’ll tell you that one Mary.

Best thing since sliced bread

This phrase is often used to describe something that is simply put, great. Sliced bread is a staple in any Irish household, and it is often regarded as being one of the best inventions. Therefore, anything that comes close to that is truly the work of magic.

In a sentence: Gosh Padraig, isn’t contactless payment the best thing since sliced bread?

Chance your arm

For those who are trying something new, you could say that they are chancing their arm at something. However, the phrase can also be used to say that someone is testing their luck.

In a sentence: He chanced his arm claiming he forgot his wallet on our date last night.

Eat the head off

If someone is eating the head off another person, it means that they are being told off. Usually, this phrase is used to describe a superior such as a parent or teacher who was annoyed about something that someone did. 

In a sentence: My mother is definitely going to eat the head off me when I come home late.

Effin’ and blindin’

Someone who is “effin’ and blindin’” is a person who is swearing and using curse words. This phrase is generally used by those from the countryside in Ireland as a more polite way of describing how a story or event unfolded that resulted in a person swearing. 

In a sentence: Timmy forgot to save his assignment and his laptop shut down, and I’ll tell ya the whole campus could hear him effin’ and blindin’.

How’s she cuttin’

This phrase is widely recognised across Ireland as a way of asking someone how they are. It can usually be heard in the more rural parts of Ireland or those who come from a rural background. 

In a sentence: Ah Mary, how’s she cuttin’? 

I will yeah

While this phrase may seem like you agree to something, it is generally said sarcastically. Therefore this phrase means, I definitely will not do the thing you are asking me to do.

In a sentence: A. Buy me a drink tonight, Johnny?

B. I will yeah.

Now you’re suckin’ diesel

This phrase is used to refer to something moving forward, whether that be a vehicle or a situation. This phrase would also be used to describe someone who is getting the hang of or getting used to a new craft.

In a sentence: You’re suckin’ diesel now, you’ll have the whole lot finished in no time.

Stall the ball

This is a phrase for asking someone to slow down or stop what they are doing. This phrase is generally used by non-city folk; however, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear it in a university. 

In a sentence: A. Are we all good to go?

B. Stall the ball there for a bit will ya.

Sure you know yourself

This is a usual response to a question that would otherwise have resulted in a long-winded answer. It essentially means that the person you are talking to understands. 

In a sentence: I know I missed class this morning, but I went out with the lads and sure you know yourself.

To be langers

If you are drunk, some Irish would say you are langers. However, if you are blackout drunk, you would say that you were absolutely langers last night. 

In a sentence: It’s no wonder Padraig was absolutely langers last night, sure didn’t he max out his card buying pints.

To murder 

In Ireland, this phrase has two meanings — one of which is the verb to murder as the rest of the English speaking world knows it. However, in Ireland, it can also be used to express a deep desire for something. Word of warning, this can only be said for objects!

In a sentence: I don’t know about you Johnny, but I’d absolutely murder a pint of Guinness right now.

You’re taking the piss

This is probably one of the most common phrases in Ireland, and it has nothing to do with urinating. Instead, it is used to express discontent for a situation, especially if you believe that the other person is having you on.

In a sentence: That lecturer has to be taking the piss if he thinks I’m going to have the assignment completed in two days.

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Aoife O’Mara
Written By
Aoife O’Mara

Aoife is a freelance writer and journalist based in Ireland. She is passionate about travel, education and culture.


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