The CRAIC is MightySearch Ireland Fun Facts:
The Irish keep talking about craic – but have a tough time defining it.
By Elaine Walsh
First things first: It’s pronounced “crack.”
“Let’s go have some craic” is the youthful cry each Saturday evening the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle.
"What is this craic and why is everybody having it or looking for it?” visitors to Ireland often ask with raised eyebrows (their tone suggesting that the entire Irish population should get to a detox clinic as soon as possible).
Craic is a Gaelic word, with no exact English translation. The closest you get is “fun.” There’s the expression “ceoil agus craic,” meaning “music and fun,” probably once used by locals to fortify themselves before heading off over an arduous mountain pass to the nearest ceili. Craic doesn’t appear in standard English dictionaries, but enter it as a search term on Google, and 42,500 listings come up. There’s obviously a lot of craic out there.
Put simply, having craic is having a good time or a laugh. However, due to an unfortunate similarity in pronunciation with a well-known and illegal narcotic substance, not everyone gets the right idea about it. Apocryphal stories abound of unlucky Irish travellers who have had their innocent search for craic misinterpreted. In one well-known example from Paris, two Irish lads saunter down the boulevard, musing out loud on what to do and good places to find some craic. Their plans for the evening are, somewhat naturellement, misunderstood by a nearby eavesdropping gendarme.
“Looking for ze crack, mais non,” cries the gendarme before slapping handcuffs on the unfortunate pair and whisking them off to the nearest Parisian police station where, needless to say, they do not encounter much craic that particular evening.
Temple Bar is an area of streets on the city centre’s south side, between the River Liffey and Dame Street. Initially planned as Dublin’s cultural quarter in the eighties, it is today awash with restaurants and pubs. The area heaves at the weekend, sometimes all too literally, when the evening’s excesses visibly catch up with many party revellers.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of those out that evening were tourists. A man with an enormous Guinness hat looked like a likely candidate for a definition. “What’s the craic and where can you find it?” I brightly enquired. He looked back at me blankly before telling me, in Italian, that he didn’t understand. Hmmm.
Two girls, dressed up for a night out on the tiles, and by all appearances somewhat tanked up, meandered by. “The craic, that’s crack cocaine, innit?” they giggled. They were from Blackpool. “No, we know, it’s having a laugh,” they reassured me before tottering back off to the nearest watering-hole. Dave from London also knew the expression. Pushed for a definition he said that “it’s heading into a pub on a Saturday afternoon and it’s already full and everyone is on for having a good time.”
An Irish Definition
“I don’t have a life at the moment,” moaned one friend. “Don’t ask me what the craic is. I wouldn’t have a clue.” Helen, another friend reached by phone, laughed and answered “You can’t define it. It’s just something which happens. It’s organic. It depends on what is happening, where you are and who’s there.” She turned to ask her friends. Even over the phone the silence was deafening. “I’ve got a lot of blank expressions here,” she said. “Fun and frolics” was the best definition they could come up with.
A good friend, Joe, is energetic, sociable and enjoys the craic more than most. He’s never been lost for words, except when I asked him to define the magic word. He literally became speechless – for the first time in 20 years to the best of my knowledge. In fact, the vast majority of people I spoke to couldn’t give a precise explanation of what the craic is.
With or Without Drinks
For me, too, the craic is hard to pin down. It’s not something you can neatly label or put in a box. Try to sum it up and you probably kill it off. But if pushed, I would say the essence of craic is in the talk and banter of good company, a group of people getting together to have a laugh and most of all to take a break from being serious about life. However, it seems there’s no other option but to come over to Ireland and have some craic yourself!
Unique definitions of Craic:
Elaine Walsh lives in Dublin.