Taking Language Liberties

James Joyce is famous for the wonderful liberties he took with the English language but the longer I live in Ireland the more I believe it’s a national trait. Almost every exchange contains some delightful little quirk of syntax or grammar.

‘Will I give ye a refund?’ asks the lady at Customer Services. I don’t know. Will she? Or should she?

‘Just looking, is it?’ asked the disdainful salesgirl in Claire’s Accessories. Don’t they train them to know that grannies sometimes need to enter such hell-holes of teenagery in order to find gifts for granddaughters? I suppose the correct answer to her question was, ‘It is.’

And my favourite, recently overheard, was a perfect example of the Hanging Conjunction.

Student No. 1:  How’s the new place, Gav?
Gav: Damp. Cold. And we’ve mice wearing concrete boots.’
Student No.1:  Terrible, that.
Gav: Yeah, terrible. We’ve two lawnmowers, but.

Do they do this anywhere else in the English-speaking world?

James Joyce, by the way, was born in a little house just round the corner from here. I suppose he must have been pushed past my window in his pram. Imagine.





  1. Jane on November 9, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Australians. Gone are the sardonic phrases I grew up with (off faster than a bride’s nightie; bald as a bandicoot; flat out like a lizard drinking; stickybeak; bludger). Now it’s, like, Americanisms. With an Aussie accent, but.

  2. Penny Hankey on November 10, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Why does everyone feel the need to begin every sentence with “So”? Every interviewee on the BBC seems to do it. I’m longing for someone to ask me what I do in my spare time just so that I can answer “Sew”.

    • Helen Atkin on November 19, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      And, while we are about it, has anyone else noticed that so many people say “myself” and “yourself” instead of I, me, you?
      Can it be that they have failed to take on board the correct use of I, me and you, and feel that they will be safe if they use myself and yourself, and possibly believe, because these words are longer, they are more prestigious?
      I am frequently outraged by a certain television commercial about PPI which says “…. possibly mis-sold to you and I” Sadly, shouting at the TV makes no difference.
      Rant over!

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