Day 26 - Irish Slang: Give Someone the Eye

Jul 06, 2024

Happenings happen in Ireland. Happenings are when seemingly synchronistic things occur that you can only marvel at. They happen, usually, when a person is going with the flow of life.

This week, I happened upon a shop in Dublin. Oh wait, I'd better give you a bit of context first. Firstly, it's Friday, Day 26 of a 30-day commitment I made to myself to blog every day. I've messed the publication time up a wee bit over the 30 days, but I've still managed to publish for each of the days. We're on schedule for Day 30. Secondly, every Friday, I post an Irish English or Hiberno English phrase or word of the week. This week, the word is "eye." 

The Road to Happenings

Last week, I got test results after two and half years in and out of different scans of my brain and optic nerve. I got the all clear for at least a year - until exactly June 10th 2025 in fact. They've even already sent me my letter. I was pleased as punch (very happy). 

Just under a week later, I was in Dublin, going to the National Museum to take some photos of ancient Irish metalwork for something I'm exploring this summer related to Irish cures and curses. While walking around to the museum near Dublin's Trinity College, I spotted an eye looking at me from the window of a shop. Then I realised there were lots of eyes, in frames. "Curious," I thought. 

There was a book in the window of the shop. It had an owl on it. My Dad's favourite rhyme is "The Owl and The Pussycat." The book looked exactly like the book which had the rhyme in it when I was growing up. That day, I was also going to visit Dad in hospital, so I went in to see if it was that book. It turned out not to be, but I decided to get it anyway because it had lots of lovely fable-like short stories in it.

Happening #1

If you explore the blog over the 30 days, you'll see I've been exploring my creativity, writing all sorts of different things as the feeling takes me. I've a great story cooking - well, I feel it'll be great. A day or two before seeing the book, I'd asked myself what the mechanics of a fable were. I adore fables and was thinking I might try my hand at writing some. Next thing, there's this lovely book in front of me. They're not completely fable like, but there's a note of it to the stories. I bought it. 

Then, I asked the guy what the craic was with the eye pictures. He explained that they take a photo of your eye, magnified. It's an eye portrait. 

"Would you like me to take yours just so you can have a look?" he asked. 

"Well, I won't say no. I'm very curious. They look amazing. I can ask one of my family for it as a Christmas gift." 

He took the photo. 

"Well, there's no question as to the colour of your eyes. You have birthmarks too. Not everyone has them. And see there, around the pupil, there's a purple tinge. That's really rare. Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were that colour." 

Happening #2

I stood transfixed for a spell (a short while). "This is a happening. I've just got the all clear on my eye. Now I find myself in a shop that does eye portraits. I have to get it. I'm meant to get it." 

I got it - as you can see at the top of this page. You can check out the work they do HERE.


When Irish Eyes are Smiling

That's a grand song from Bing Crosby, but it's not the Irish English phrase I'm giving you today (and I actually prefer The Wolfe Tones song). But I digress. Below, for the pleasure of your perusal, are 2 phrases using the word "eye" that are common in Ireland, and a wee proverb for good measure: 

1. To give someone the eye

This can be positive or negative. In a pub, if you give someone the eye, you fancy them. In other words, you want to chat to them and maybe have a wee dance or a kiss. 

2. To give someone the eye 

Yep, it's the same one - but this is a different eye. This is the eye your mother gives you when you've done something wrong. It's a negative eye, a look that tells you you'd better sort yourself out fairly lively or you'll be in a fuck load of trouble. 

3. To take the eye out of someone's head

Don't panic, this isn't literal, although there is a literal meaning. This means something is expensive. Let's do a wee conversation. 

Oh, by the way, "wee" is a filler type word. It's very common where I'm from, Dundalk. We put "wee" before things. Sometimes, it means "small," sometimes, it's just thrown in there for the craic (the fun). 

  • Christine: Did you see that fella giving me the eye a minute ago? 
  • Lisa: I did yeah. Then I saw his girlfriend giving him the eye. You've had enough crap from men to last you a lifetime. Stay clear of him.
  • Christine: That's the bollocks. Fair play to you for noticing that. Good advice! Thanks.
  • Lisa: No bother. I'll go and get a round in. 
  • Christine: Sound. 
  • Lisa (returning from the bar): Jesus, this place is robbery! It was almost €23 for two drinks! They'd take the eye out of your head.
  • Christine: And come back for the eyeball! 

Lisa, Christine's friend, gave her a spot of good advice. She told her to stay away from the fella with the roving eye. There's a proverb in Ireland that says, "a friend's eye is a good mirror." It means a good friend will tell you the truth. Lisa was straight up and honest with Christine. She told her she'd had enough trouble from men and to steer clear of a fella (male) like that looking at other women while his girlfriend is standing beside him. 

There you have it, three lovely phrases you can use in Ireland. Keep an eye out on my Instagram over the next couple of days. I'll do a wee reel explaining these for your pleasure.

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled. If you find yourself being eyed up by a wide-eyed stranger someday, you might be on to a good thing. Just make sure there's nobody standing around them giving the other eye. Then, you might risk learning the literal meaning of the eye being taken out of your head - and nobody wants to see that kind of happening happen. 

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