As an outsider living in the Kingdom of Kerry for the last 21 years I have always enjoyed the creative sayings that Kerry people use and their unique turn of phrase. South Kerry of course has its own particular suite of phrases. For visitors to the Skellig Coast who want to be armed with the local lingo in preparation for their trip, these seven sayings are a solid start.
After presenting these terms and phrases I have no doubt I will be advised by my resident experts that some of the sayings are only known to a particular area within South Kerry or that other sayings are used beyond South Kerry and mean something different.
The exact area I am referring to when I say South Kerry stretches from Kells to Caherdaniel including Caherciveen, Ballinskelligs, Portmagee, Valentia Island, Waterville and Dromid. For the purpose of this exercise I needed to spell some of the terms phonetically. The roots of the sayings are most likely based in the Irish language.
The ‘Var’ in Varee is pronounced like the word jar. You need to roll the tongue when passing over the ‘r’ in Varee. To get a varee means to get a notion or an idea into your head to do something that is out of character and would not be in your normal course of habit.
This has nothing to do with Star Treks most famous Characters, Mr. Spock. Spelt phonetically, Te-spock means to carry out an impulsive varee or notion. For example, when a baby lamb is wandering around a field he might get a sudden urge to give a little jump or he gets a te-spock to jump.
The ‘shaar’ in Shaaring is prounced like ‘shar’ in the word sharp. When saying the word shaa-ring there should be a little roll of the tongue when passing over the letter r. When you wake up in the morning and you are stretching and yawning and twisting and shrugging to wake yourself up you are shaa-ring yourself.
4. There is a kick in him or her
This expression is not complimentary. To say ‘there is a kick in him/her’ means that the person has notions of grandeur beyond their station and they think that they are better than the people around them.
5. He/she has no understanding
This is also not complimentary. To say that he/she has no understanding means that they have no empathy and no common sense. For example if someone is insensitive to a person who is grieving or if someone close does not provide help when help is needed you would say he/she has no understanding. To put it bluntly it means he/she has no cop-on.
The ‘Bo’ part of Bo-vil is pronounced the same as the ‘Bo’ in body. The ‘vil’ part is said in the same way as ‘vil’ in village.
When you are singing a traditional Irish ballad at a session in the local pub you might forget the words and then you get in to a Bo-vil; when you get into a Bo-vil you keep singing and continue on by making up words and sounds to replace the proper lyrics in an attempt to keep the song flowing. It is never a good thing of course to get in to a Bo-vil while singing; to develop a reputation for getting in to a Bo-vil while singing at a session will greatly reduce your chances of being invited to sing again. Unfortunately the consumption of alcohol can increase the risk of getting in to a Bo-vil.
The ‘sco’ in sco-mil is said like the ‘sco’ in Scottish. When you wake up in the morning you might rub or wipe the sco-mil or the sleep from your eyes.
Language is a living thing and I fear that many sayings such as these that display the unique and individual character of the locality from where they originate will disappear from use as the use of language and the accent in which it is spoken depends less and less on place. Language today is now influenced strongly by the virtual on-line worlds of Twitter, Snap Chat, Facebook, Instagram and Netflix. It is highly unlikely the younger generation are using these phrases in their on-line world.
To prevent these rare and unique sayings from dying out you might get a varee some time and spot an opportunity to weave one of them into your conversation that will breathe some life into it and carry it on for the future.