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Manx Idioms & Phrases

by Ber Weyde

Some Manx idioms and phrases courtesy of W Walter Gill from his book Manx Dialect, Words & Phrases (1934).

Hallo the house! = is a greeting on entering which has perhaps replaced the old Celtic form of blessing on the house and its inmates.

Shoh Slaynt! = “Here’s health!”  Said when men drink together.

A moon of gobbags* = a long space of time, a blue moon.  “A quiet man living in the one place would navar hear in a moon of gobbags.

Talk to the birds = is the last resource of an incurable chatterbox who can get nobody else to listen.  “Talk?  That one ‘ud talk to the birds!”

Give a Manx answer = is to counter a question with another question.

Have a big song = is to have a lot to say about something, to exaggerate a matter.  “If his little finger aches, he’ll have a big song about it.”

Between the lights = the time between starlight (or moonlight) and sunrise.  This was the hour consecrated to lifting magical and medicinal herbs.

The day is with me = is that things are going well with me or, when used by an older person, that most of the day is still at my disposal and I have plenty of time in hand.

Till Peel Fair is in the harbour or held in the harbour.  Is a picturesque way of saying ‘for ever’.  Contrawise, When Peel Fair is in the Harbour means ‘never’.

Air one’s self  = is to give one’s self airs.  “A second mate he was an’ his wife airin’ herself as if she was Queen Victoria!”

You’ll not die in the North = was a sly allusion to the fact that capital punishment was carried out at Castletown, in the south of the Island.

A lie with a lid on = a well thought out falsehood, conscientiously constructed and complete in every detail.

Break a straw  = to clinch a bargain, to come to an agreement about the price or conditions of something.  “Let’s break a straw on it then.”

The fairies are doing their baking or their washing = is said when it rains with the sun shining.

* gobbags = dogfish


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