By: Kelly Schmitz
Slagging is a term used to describe a kind of harsher form of teasing. While this may seem like an insult to some, to the Irish, it’s considered a behavior that shows affection or bonding, and, in some cases, is even used as a compliment. You might consider pointing out how much weight your friend has gained or take a poke at their short stature, for example. At this point, you, like me, might be thinking, “Gosh, I tease my friends all the time? What does any of this have to do with being Irish?” This difference lies in that unlike in America, slagging isn’t just used to playfully make fun of the other person, it’s used as a form of positive reinforcement. To the Irish, slagging is just a bit of “craic”, a term the Irish use to describe fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation, and no harm is meant by what is said. In a workplace setting for example, a boss will tell his employee how great they’re doing. Not the case in Ireland, where that same boss would be more likely to tell his employee that he finally got off his lazy arse. It’s the difference between distributing straight up compliments and hiding them in the humorous lingo. Such harsh words, it seems, but is this behavior particularly unique to the Irish? To answer this question, I decided to delve deeper and ask a couple of my close friends for input.
To begin, I described what slagging exactly means and gave them some examples (such as making racial slurs or jokes about political views), just as I did at the beginning of this blog. The results were pretty straightforward: slagging is something not completely foreign to American society, but the way the Irish do it is. Most of them thought that slagging among good friends is acceptable to some extent (as long as you don’t cross the line into things they’re self-conscious about), but it’s definitely not something to condone in the professional world. The Irish find this particularly annoying, as most Americans turn what is said into an insult, and the light-hearted craic of the situation quickly turns sour. Even though that was not their intention, what matters most is how the communication was received, and it seems that Americans are not sure how, creating tension and diminishing an important part of the Irish culture. Why the difference? One of the friends that I interviewed in particular said something that struck me, remarking in the fact that Americans participate in an individualistic society and almost need those occasional self-confidence boosts. The Irish, on the other hand, are taught to downplay their achievements, and therefore slagging actually helps reinforce this behavior. Whether or not it’s a good thing is still up for debate, and the real question might actually be whether or not the Irish or the American way of thinking is superior. Regardless, I think most will agree that Irish slagging is definitely not for America.