“It’s grand to make your acquaintance! On this monitor, you don’t look half as old as I thought you were.”
It was word tasting Zoom time again, and since travel was not a consideration, Maury had invited a fellow named Éamon, who was somewhere in Ireland, where it was somewhere past midnight. Éamon clearly fancied that he had the gift of the blarney. I thought it was more the gift of the stone.
“Well, I’m pleased to meet you,” I said. “I enjoyed myself very much the last time I was in Ireland.”
“I didn’t think you’d ever been!” Éamon said. “I happened to see your video on pronouncing Irish, and the other one too, and that third one, and I thought you weren’t nearly as dreadful at it as I would expect from an American.”
I was trying to think of where to start with that when Maury stepped in, so to speak. “James is from Canada, like me.”
“Ah, that explains why you have that look of someone who’s been enjoying the acme of Canadian cuisine, what do you call it – Brezhnev? Gorbachev?”
There was a moment of dead air and then the penny dropped for me and Maury. “Poutine,” we both said at the same time.
“That’s the one!” Éamon said. “Sure, it’s grand. When Maurice was visiting me he attempted to make it. He’s not at all a bad cook for a lad.”
Maury glanced off to the side with a face like a cat that had been petted the wrong way. Éamon’s praise was, shall we say, understated; Maury is a very good cook.
“Perhaps you’d like to visit Canada sometime,” I offered.
“I might yet,” Éamon said. “I’ve heard it’s like the heart of Galway, a whole lot of not much but scenic for all that. Nearly as nice as Ireland itself if it was much larger and the weather was worse.”
“Say, James,” Maury said, “don’t you have a book given to you by your friend from Galway, on Irish slang?”
I paused for just a moment. “Oh! Yes.” I reached behind me to the stack of books that permanently nuzzled a back leg of my desk chair. On the top of it was Slanguage: A Dictionary of Irish Slang by Bernard Share, which the estimable Stan Carey gave me. I held it up for the camera. “Perhaps we should taste a word from here.”
“There’s nothing quite like a taste of Ireland,” Éamon said.
“I’ll drink to that,” Maury said, and held up what appeared to be a half-finished glass of Guinness.
“Oh, that’s the good stuff,” Éamon said. “It’s Murphy’s, now, isn’t it?” At which point I realized that he must be from Cork or environs.
I flipped through the book, landed on page 299, and scanned it quickly. “Oh, here’s a good word, I think.”
“They’re Irish, they’re all good,” Éamon said.
“This one’s from Ulster, so you may not know it,” I said. “Slouster.”
“I think I’ve not heard it,” he said.
“It’s both noun and verb, and comes from Irish slusaí,” I said.
“Ní aithním é,” Éamon said, which meant he didn’t recognize it, “but I’m sure you made a game try at saying it.”
“It gives a quote from someone called Todd defining it: ‘flatterer who lacks the art of flattering successfully.’”
At that point, I think Maury burst into a coughing fit, but I couldn’t see him, as his camera had gotten covered with Guinness.
Éamon, however, was unfazed. “Isn’t that the most Irish word I’ve ever heard,” he said. “If you had any more luck in finding words, James, you might make a good Irishman!”