Favourite Irish phrases that run a mile a minute

Philip Stokes, of Stokes Clocks and Watches, MacCurtain Street

Familiar with an Irish mile?

It depends whether you are walking uphill or down.

How about an Irish minute? Give me a second — or ten — to explain.

An Irish minute is four minutes 59 seconds long, according to a survey of 1,000 (or so) people conducted by EBS building society.

Some of the survey’s highlights include:

  • ‘I’LL BE THERE IN A MINUTE’

A dubious measure of time in Ireland. The survey discovered that the length of an ‘Irish minute’ can vary from as much as two minutes 52 seconds in Leitrim to a whopping 11 minutes 30 seconds in Carlow. When asked to ‘hang on a minute’ from someone in Dublin, people can be left waiting over five minutes; similarly in Kildare, Meath, Longford, Monaghan, Limerick, Tipperary, Laois, Kilkenny, Waterford and Clare.

  • ‘WE SHOULD MEET UP SOON’

For a third of Irish people this means ‘never’. In Monaghan, 67% of those that say, ‘Ah, we really should meet up soon’ never intend to meet. However, the survey reveals that, in general, when someone suggests meeting up soon, 38% of people will remain true to their word.

  • HOW LATE IS ‘DEAD LATE?’

This phrase communicates a level of lateness like no other. According to the survey, it is 43 minutes 39 seconds — unless you’re dead or in Limerick where it means more than an hour.

  • TWO SHAKES OF A LAMB’S TAIL

When asked which time related phrase is most irritating, ‘two shakes of a lamb’s tail,’ wins with 35% of the vote. ‘Yonks’ is marginally less annoying with 31% of the votes. Phrases like ‘Give us a sec,’ ‘a million years,’ ‘ages’ and ‘donkey’s years,’ are less irritating, scoring 10% or less.

Barry Delaney, head of marketing at EBS, said: “EBS understands that people lead busy lives, and 9-5 doesn’t always suit. Hopeful Irish house seekers will be happy to learn that EBS will meet to talk mortgages anytime. House hunters can arrange to meet an EBS mortgage advisor anytime by calling their local office or visiting www.ebs.ie.”

And if you are running late, give them a ring and say you’ll be there in a second.


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