The first time I heard the phrase “your man” was in a phone conversation with my Irish cousin. He was referring to my good friend Luke whom he had met at a Gaelic football game when we had first met as well. I was intrigued by the phrase, mostly because of the distinctly Irish pronunciation: “Yer maan Luke.”
Now most Americans writing about Irish slang would immediately be drawn to the word “craic.” Craic is a word that means fun that can be used in a variety of different contexts: “What’s the craic”= “What’s up,” “Any craic last night?”= “Did you have fun,” etc. Based upon the pronunciation bearing striking similarity to an illegal drug, it is a tough phrase for foreigners to get used to.
To me, “Yer man” embodies Irish culture in a way that “craic” does not. My cousin Joe has been kind enough to take me on a couple trips exploring Ireland. We went up to the North, exploring the still-divided city of Derry and stopping at small towns along the way. A week later we took the long drive south to the Dingle Peninsula and a portion of the Ring of Kerry. This beautiful area of spectacular scenery was only made better by a beautiful day and some of the freshest fish and chips consumed steps away from the boats that had caught it.
Spending time with Joe was when I heard the phrase used the most. But I have heard it plenty from my Irish roommates, in classes, and just about everywhere in everyday life. Why it so peculiarly reflects Irish culture is it’s use. Similar to the American phrase “your boy,” it describes good friends. But it is also used very frequently with a sarcastic tone. For example, I once heard someone mention “Yer man Graham Dwyer.” Graham Dwyer is a former architect that was recently convicted of a brutal and sadistic murder in a case that consumed Ireland. Once in the mall, I witnessed a man, most likely just very drunk, lying in the middle of the hall right as the police arrived. I went, did my shopping, and when I returned to get a new SIM card and leave, he was still there. When I asked the phone kiosk employee what had happened and why he had been laying there for over 30 minutes, he explained that he was not sure what “yer man” was up to.
Irish people are very laid back, somewhat sarcastic, and have a very tongue in cheek tone to their conversations. They approach serious topics with a level of humor to make them easier to swallow. It is a set of attitudes that I am very fond of. “Yer man” embodies of the many reasons I am so happy I chose Dublin to study abroad.