Notes from a very small island (in the middle of Rothco’s lobby)

Author: Laura Elliot
Date: 6 January, 2016

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I hadn’t actually given moving to Dublin a great deal of thought before I arrived on these shores.

To be honest, it felt to me like a bit of a no-brainer, having visited every Easter and Christmas for the past six years and having found nowhere else in the world where Christmas jumpers were such an institution and ‘craic having’ so deeply inscribed into a nation’s culture, I was more than happy to leave London with all of its rolling enormousness and endless commuting and settle across the Irish Sea.

Each time I’d visited, I’d felt at home here, strolling along Dublin’s beautiful streets and into its glittering cafes and bars, the city had swept me up into a lovely great big squeeze and whispered friendly and often completely incomprehensible things into my ears, while I smiled and just assumed I’d most probably misheard. This is where I’d like to start…because it turns out I hadn’t misheard at all.


I can spot you, you know? You fellow newbies!


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First off, a tip. The phrase ‘Ah sure look’ delivered with an inclusive and world-weary sigh will buy you a HUGE amount of time to figure out what someone said, because it’s typically met with a resounding ‘Ah sure this is it!’ followed by a shared, knowing pause to reflect upon the current state of the world. The heat and immediacy of the preceding conversation evaporates immediately, and despite not knowing what we’re looking at, or what ‘this’ is exactly, you’re off the hook for a few moments. Trust me, this one is invaluable.

A second tip: You’ll need to ‘cop on’ to a bit of Irish sarcasm, which is both hilarious and tear-inducingly confusing. Once you crack it it’s hysterical, but to begin with there is no amount of intuition that will ever tell you that ‘Go on!’ and ‘I will yeah!’ invariably mean ‘no’. ‘How is this?’ I hear you cry, I don’t know, it just is. Take for example the question, ‘Will you be coming to bootcamp (a pastime of Rothco’s most resilient employees) at 7am tomorrow morning?’ to which your interlocutor replies ‘I will yeah!’… She won’t. Don’t wait for her. You can scratch her off the list. ‘Go on’ on the other hand doesn’t mean ‘yes! Go right ahead and book me on to that 5am flight!’ but instead has very much the sense of ‘give over’ in English i.e. leave it out. Two phrases, both encountered frequently on reception, which have often fed into wildly over-catered for meetings. Bear them both in mind.


The heat and immediacy of the preceding conversation evaporates immediately


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So, in order of preference, here are my top five most confusing and most useful Irish phrases:

1) ‘Putting him/it/them on the long finger’: This really is a weird one, and not necessarily as creepy as it sounds. In my mind it seems to mean taking an issue (personal or business), then imagining that you have a really, really long finger, and pushing it way, way off into the distance, which always reminds me of the ghost from Christmas past.. Basically, we’re putting it on the ‘later-base’ and will deal with it some other time.

2) ‘I’m off to get me messages’: Heard frequently around lunchtime at Rothco, and often delivered in a heavily-exaggerated accent, this phrase initially gives the newcomer the impression that you’re off to receive a telegram at the post-office or, more worryingly for a receptionist, that you’re off to collect your messages from some other receptionist who is clearly doing a better job than you. I have regularly told people that there is no need to worry and that in fact have their messages, or that I can get their messages for them *cue staring and blinking* And yet, ‘getting the messages’ means popping in to town to buy ‘your bits’, typically groceries. Thanks Sinead.

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3) ‘Sure, I’ll tell you again’: Don’t be offended by this one, and don’t wait uncomfortably close to someone for them to repeat themselves, they aren’t accusing you of having not listened. Many a few awkward minutes have been spent hovering in meetings or waiting by someone’s desk before realising that they intend to tell me something unrelated some other time.

4) ‘He’s a gas man altogether’: He’s not. He’s possibly the CEO of some multi-national conglomerate, so don’t accost him as he arrives and ask him to check out the gas metre. This guy is just ‘great craic (fun)’ and an all-round interesting character. No need to hustle him out to the carpark, unless he really is a gas man, but you’d have to judge that one for yourself.

5) ‘Can you sort us out some minerals for the meeting?’: ‘Sure, but I can probably only get you some manganite or quartz at this stage in the day’… is the wrong answer. Another super Irish’ed phrase, right up there with ‘getting the messages’, which I suspect is largely for my benefit. Rothco meetings are filled with minerals and jellies, and yet they by no means resemble the image of a children’s birthday party for geologists that initially springs to mind. Minerals = fizzy drinks; Jellies = just Haribo, not the Rowntree’s spaceman-shaped creations that you’d have after three hours hard graft on a bouncy castle.


Rothco meetings are filled with minerals and jellies


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So there you go. For all of my general confusion and sometimes frantic calls upstairs to my team of on-hand translators ‘help! She wants me to stack the minerals in the press!’ (you know who you are), I have never worked for a company more proud of being themselves and who laugh so heartily along with their own Irish-isms and Rothco-isms. Working on reception at Rothco has opened up Dublin and Ireland in general for me, initiating me into its words and ways. I think I still have a way to go, but I’m happy learning. Happy out even!

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