One of the truly unusual aspects of being Irish is that weird habit we have of sometimes saying the exact opposite of what we mean. “I will yeah!” can mean “I absolutely won’t” and “shut up, you. Ya weirdo!” can mean “I love you very, very much”! The last one in particular could be classed as “slagging”. Slagging is a term used to describe a kind of harsher form of teasing.
While this may seem like an insult to some, to us Irish, it’s considered a behaviour that shows affection or bonding, and, in some cases, is even used as a compliment. We tend to positively enforce people by mild insult. The closeness of Irish friendships -- particularly Irish male friendships -- can often be measured by how badly the friends insult each other. Shortness, tallness, fatness, skinniness, hairiness and baldness are all highlighted to tighten the bonds of mutual affection. They are often turned into nicknames.
Or at least they used to be. I’ve found that since we’ve become more cosmopolitan as a country…and having worked for both Japanese and American companies and with work colleagues from all over the world….slagging doesn’t always travel well.
To the Irish, slagging is just a bit of “craic” (a term us Irish use to describe fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation) and no harm is meant by what is said. It’s a bit similar to the American concept of a comedy roast. Slagging among good close friends is quite common here and is acceptable as long as you don’t cross the line into things they’re self-conscious about. There also needs to be a level of equality between the parties…with both in a position to give as good as they get….otherwise it can morph into bullying. If a comment is not funny then things can turn sour.
Good slagging is transactional. It’s not on if the recipient is clearly shy and aren't handling slagging that well. Sometimes nasty people can say things that are mean spirited under the guise of "it's only banter". And that should be called out for what it is. So to slag well, the slagger needs to be emotionally intelligent to read the situation and circumstances. And to give it over if the slagee is not laughing!
I was reminded of all this recently as I came across our Arthur Andersen Christmas Slag Mag 1990! It was an annual 4 page “magazine” produced the week before the Christmas Party by four or five junior staff in our Tax Division and the idea was that everyone without exception got slagged off in a jokey way for things they did or said during the year. Most were “in-jokes”. A copy would be left on everyone’s desk in the Tax Division before work one morning in December.
As background, to explain, I had joined the Tax Division in Dublin in January of that year. We were based on St. Stephen’s Green near the junction with Hume Street while Andersen House in the IFSC was being built. I shared an open-plan staffroom with three messers: Barry, Ciaran and Conor…the lads. They were all Dubs and used to slag me for going home to Carrick every weekend. Whenever I’d have to leave the staffroom for a client meeting, they would sing “We’ve (you’ve) lost that loving Phelan (feeling)”! We had some great laughs in that staffroom.
Anyway, that Sept of 1990 I had gone on a Funtrek bus tour around mainland Europe and had taken loads of photos which I had shown the lads on my return, then left them on my desk and promptly forgot about them. One of the photos was me posing on the beach at Antibes in the South of France. The morning the Slag Mag came out, our receptionist Sue burst out laughing the minute I came out of the lift onto the Tax Floor. The same thing happened when I passed Ann one of the secretaries on the way to my staffroom. I soon found out why! There on my desk was a copy of the Slag Mag….and I was on Page 3!!!
I had never suspected a thing…but the messers in my staffroom had copied the Antibes photo and given it to the Slag Mag producers. I was scarlet for about a week afterwards. And if I had a pound for every time I heard the joke “Oh I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on”…. I could have retired. I could laugh at it at the Andersen Christmas Party …. a few weeks later.
Looking back, I took it in the spirit it was meant…. there was no offence intended…and none taken. They were all lovely lads and I was always treated with respect and as an equal. The Slag Mag was phased out a few years later…..as it was felt it was all fine and dandy if kept within the Division…but might not be viewed as professional outside the Division …. especially by any of our clients. And not everyone would find it funny if taken out of context. For me, I learned it was good to laugh at myself …. and never to leave photos lying around!!
I'll leave you with some photos from that Andersen Christmas Party 1990!
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 120
Number 32 - Entertainment/Sporting Event
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever been slagged off? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!