How to speak ‘Derry’ - how the US Navy learned the lingo

The Guildhall
The Guildhall

They say that in Derry we have, shall we say, some peculiarities in our linguistic output.

These were thought to have been of a sufficient difference that the U.S. Navy, when sailors came here in the 1940s, thought it prudent to issue a handbook outlining some of these as standard military issue for Derry.

What follows are some of those phrases. (Derry first, followed by US Navy translation)

Away wi the fairies-Demented

Alright there!-A Greeting




Beaten Docket-Unsuccessful


Broke to the bone-Highly Embarrassed

Broke Dead-Violently ignored

Bake-Face or mouth

Cat-Not good

Cat Melodeon-Worse

Chance’ll Bother You-An opportunity not to be offered one

C’mon You-Attracting someone’s attention with a view to getting them to do something

Duck (Rare)-Eccentric person

Dead Broke-Very Embarrassed

Even Your Wit T A WEAN-Compete unfairly against a minor

Failed-Having lost weight

Fading away to a mountain-Having put on weight


Good steever-Sore kick in the posterior

Get into-To remonstrate with

Get away-Expression of disbelief

Gunk-Severe disappointment

Juke-A quick look

Just-The motivation for most anti-social behaviour

Join-To tell off

Lock-Amount of

Lured stiff-Delighted


Make a pig’s knickers of-Make a mess off


Odds-Spare Change

Pee-the bed-Dandelion

Peg-To throw stones


Ready for the hills-Harrassed


Steever-Kick in the posterior



Stews-Doherty’s mince, potatoes, onions

Skelp-A good slap

Stickin out-Wonderful

Start-To provoke to the point of argument

So seen on ye


Tapping-Seeking “odds” (spare change)

Up a tree in Rosemount-Whereabouts unknown and absence unlamented

Wee bunS-Easy (or a former bishop)

Wee sope in your hand-Cup of tea


Wile colour-Of pale complexion

Yes-A greeting

You’re a teller-Expression of surprise

You’re a liar-Tell me more