Playboy of the Western World

Listen to people names, place names, terms and idioms from the play Playboy of the Western World, by J.M. Synge, as read by Barbara Carswell. Files are contributed by Paul Meier and Elizabeth van den Berg, and the recording was made by IDEA Founder and Director Paul Meier on September 22, 2007.

The following text can be found in PDF format here.


Elizabeth van den Berg is an Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. She works professionally as a voice, speech and dialect director for many theatres in the Baltimore MD and Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. A proud member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and Actor’s Equity Association, in 2006 she was honored with a Kennedy Center Gold Medallion in recognition of her work with the American College Theatre Festival.

Barbara Carswell, a native of Northern Ireland, holds an MS. Ed from the University of Kansas, did her undergraduate work at St. Mary’s College of Education, Belfast, taught Irish to secondary school students in Northern Ireland, and in Rann na Feirste, Loch an Iubhair, and Gaoth Dobhair (Gaelteacht areas in Donegal), and also taught Irish at the University of Kansas. Her dialect is that of Donegal.

Paul Meier is a dialect coach, and the founder and director of IDEA. On his website, you will find his dialect instruction on the Irish and Northern Ireland dialects.



Achill – an island off the western coast
Balina – a town inland in County Mayo
banbhs – (n.) piglets
bedizened – dressed or adorned gaudily. Usually implies magnificence, fine riches
Belmullet – a remote town in the West of Ireland
blackthorn (n.) – a cane made from a blackthorn plum bush
Boers – Dutch settlers suppressed by the British in the Boer War 1899-1902
bona fide – a real traveler and so permitted to purchase spirits after the closing time of a
licensed pub.
carcase (n.) – carcass
Carrowmore – a town in Northern Mayo County
Castlebar – large city in the county of Mayo on the NW side of Ireland
cess – expression meaning bad luck derived from the practice of assessment of the Irish
for provision of British Military forces.“Bad cess to ya” is a common curse
meaning “may you come to a bad end”.
cleeve (n.) – basket worn on the back “Cliabh”
Connaught – an area in Galway county; “blue jugs in a cabin of Connaught” in Act III refers to Danish Vikings who settled in Dublin making blue pottery, but they never reached Connaught, so such a thing would be a rarity.cnuceen (n.) – a small hill “Cnocain”
creel cart (n.)- a wicker basket cart, usually used for carrying fish
Crossmolina – a town in the middle of County Mayo
curragh (n.) – small boat used in Ireland from ancient times and made of a frame (as of wicker) covered usually with hide or tarpaulin
droughty (adj.) – thirsty
Erris plain – area near Crossmolina, County Mayo, Ireland
felts (n.) – thrushes
frish-frash – leavings in a cup
furze (n.) – a spiny yellow flowered shrub
furzy ditch – ditch under the above mentioned shrub
gob (n.) – a worthless youth with a foul mouth. [Gob literally means mouth] inveigle (v) – entice, lure
Kilmainham – a jail in Dublin
Kruger – Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic established by the Boers (see above for Boers)
Land Wars – at peak in the 1880’s, to nationalize the ownership of land and so protect tenant farmers from eviction
lepper (n) – leaper (as in one who leaps)
liefer (adv.) – willingly, gladly
loosed kharkis– refers to former soldiers (who wore khaki uniforms) from the Land Wars, described as being belligerent and unruly
loy (n.) – small spade with a long handle, usually used for the digging of potatoes
lug (n.) – earlobe
Michaelmas – feast of St. Michael, September 29
mitch off– run off, disappear
mitred bishops – mitred refers to the hats that the bishops wore at the time
Neifin (Irish, Gleann Naoighean) = the valley of Glasnevin
Owen – A glen in Galway County. “Owen” usually means a river (often in a glen) … it comes from the irish word “abhainn
parlatic – Paralytic (as in not able to stand … usually with drink!)
paters – the Lords Prayer
poteen (n.) –an illegal home distilled spirit
shebeen (n) – an unlicensed or illegally operated drinking establishment
Sligo (n.) – harbor town in Northern Mayo county; Boats left from here to Glasgow.
spavindy (adj.) – spavin is a disease of horses that causes lameness. Christy refers to a lame donkey. Spavin often refers to a kicking donkey … one that kicks out backwards … considered “cranky.” The Irish word is “speachan.”
“Speachaire” – a cranky, irritable person
Stooks of the Dead Women – A shoreline rock formation named for a ship disaster
steleen (n.) – wandering. Pegeen continues with a reference to the poet Owen Roe O’Sullivan, who wandered the county of Kerry and it’s Dingle peninsula
St. Martin’s Day – a festival day on November 11 preceding a period of penitence (St. Martin’s Lent) which extends through Christmas.
supeen (n.) – a small drink
thaneen (n.) – thread, song, scraptinkers (n.) – itinerant mender of household utensils, so called as they usually worked tin.
turbary (n) – the right to cut turf (see below) on another’s property
turf (n.) – rectangular pieces of dried bog, used for fireplace fuel.
union (n.) – public assistance workhouse
wake (n.) – gathering of the bereaved following the death of a relative or friend, lasting all night, traditionally with lots of drinking. Started originally to ensure that the person was actually dead before the burial.
winkered – wearing a harness with blinders



Christopher Mahon – also called Christy
Daneen Sullivan
Honor Blake
Jimmy Farrell
Kate Cassidy
Mad Mulrannies
Marcus Quin
Margaret Flaherty – also called Pegeen Mike
Michael James Flaherty
Old Man Mahon
Philly Cullen
Red Linahan
Sara Tansey
Shawn Keough – also called Shaneen
Susan Brady
Widow Quinn


Webster’s American Dictionary, Smithmark Publishers, NY 1999
The Playboy of the Western World, J.M. Synge (various editions)
In Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara, J.M. Synge, Rowman and Littlefield, NJ, 1980
Barbara Carswell

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