Like + So + Now

10 Feb 2010

Sorry, but I need to write about this. I think about it all the time. I could be swinging away on a beautiful Spring day and still pondering. Not sure why, but I must confess, I’ve become utterly fascinated with the cacophony of incidental language twists here in Ireland.

Oh yes, wait a minute.  I am sure why….

Too much time on my hands. Pure and simple.  (See #5 on the “On Marrying An Irish Farmer” tab)

Anyway, it’s just that people tend to use the words LIKE, SO and NOW an awwwwful lot here.  And not really in the way you’d think they would. When I first starting hearing these words all the time it was a bit perplexing. This is because when Americans use the words LIKE, SO and NOW we tend do it in ways which all seem far different than the manner in which many Irish speakers are using them.

You see, the word LIKE is used significantly more as an afterthought here. For instance, you might hear someone say, “That cow is really sick LIKE.” or  “He went to the shop LIKE”.  Whereas, in the USA, we might say something more along the lines of this: “LIKE, oh my God, that’s awesome” or “I LIKE your new Hummer” or maybe this: “That Bergdorf blonde has very straw-LIKE hair”.  But rarely, if ever, would we say “I know LIKE”.  And consider it a complete sentence. And say it  just to say it. No, we tend to use our LIKES in the beginning of a sentence. And, if you must know–our EXPLETIVES at the end of sentences &%$#*&^!!!

Then, in equal measure, the word SO gets loads of action here too. You’ll hear: “He’s going to the match, LIKE, SO”. In this case, the addition of the word SO can be a question without the added upward inflection…rhetorical I suppose. If you buy something at the store you will always experience the SO word at least a few times during your transaction. “It will be 2.80 then SO.” You give the money and they say “thank you SO” and then when you receive your change “ok SO then”. Not usually a thank you or a you’re welcome, but I’m pretty sure it means the same thing. There is also the very important “RIGHT SO” which, in our house, basically means we’re finished here and usually occurs after a long pregnant pause in conversation………………………………………………………………………….RIGHT SO. {moving on}

I have to admit that the NOW’s really shook me though. Twas my first time going to the little market in Adare when the shopkeeper, a lovely elderly woman, said “NOW” (sharply and succinctly pronounced NE-OW as heard here) as I set my eggs and apples on the counter. It was totally out of context for me. And something about the timbre or the emphatic tone that she used made me feel like I was being scolded (scolded is the only word to describe it because it had that weird shame element to it). I immediately flashed back to 2nd grade with Mrs. Luther who scolded us all the time for being too “talkative” in the classroom. Yes, this market lady’s NOW literally startled me and she knew it because she asked if I was okay. To which I replied with a nervous and slightly guilty laugh, “oh sorry, I’m fine, umm, did I do something?” She ignored my question and went on to say “NOW” again after scanning the apples. And “NOW” again when she put them in the bag. And then when she took my money she said “NOW SO”.  And, finally, when she bid me farewell, one last “NOW” as she waved goodbye.  Incredulous. I walked home in a complete state of total bewilderment.

Five years later I can honestly say that I’ve not succumbed to the Irish LIKE SO’s. But, as friends and family will attest, I do find myself using NOW (yes, in that tone) from time to time….and time again (it is oddly addictive)


Slan Abhaile,


(photo courtesy of ffffound)

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