The meaning of ‘shumpers’ and more in Aisling’s Irish glossary

Do you know what a 'Brown Thomas bag' is? Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen introduce some of the Irish phrases used in their bestselling book Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling

Brown Thomas bag

With its fancy make-up counters and designer clothes, Brown Thomas is the Irish version of Selfridges. Aisling is horrified at the price of the handbags in there, especially when the ones in Primark are just as nice, but she does pop in twice a year to buy a bottle of Clinique Happy (only when there’s a free gift with purchase, obviously). Afterwards, she proudly uses the posh BTs carrier bag to transport her court shoes and lunchbox to work while she pounds the pavements and racks up Weight Watchers Activity Points in her Skechers. Very sophisticated altogether.


Aisling can’t keep track of the latest trends, but she strictly adheres to the “business casual” dress code at PensionsPlus, where she works a mid-level admin job and hangs up increasingly desperate signs begging people to stack the dishwasher properly. Are they animals? With its crisp white shirt collar and cuffs sewn in, a shumper is a handy little jumper that takes the stress – and ironing – out of weekday mornings. She has one in every colour and pairs them with black bootcut trousers. Alexa Chung, eat your heart out.


Doing a Big Shop in Marks & Spencer? Notions. Drinking craft gin? Definite notions. Getting too big for your boots? Notions of the highest regard. You get the picture. Aisling is staunchly anti-notions, so you can imagine her surprise when she ends up renting a flat with a wet room – and liking it (once she remembers to keep her slippers off the floor).


Aisling once left her own birthday party to go home and check if she’d left the immersion on. A source of great consternation to visitors from abroad, the immersion is Ireland’s answer to hot water. You have to switch it on half an hour before you have your shower (or longer if you’re having a bath, but woe betide you when the bill comes) and you must remember to switch it off again or else you might as well just hand over your ATM code to the electricity company and let them rob you blind. Aisling’s new apartment has fancy instant hot water, which she doesn’t quite trust. But her housemates Sadhbh and Elaine have assured her there’s no hidden immersion switch. She can rest easy.


Aisling’s boyfriend John was her 17th kiss at her 21st birthday, but she didn’t shift him until later that night when she’d had three more Coors Lights and she decided she liked the cut of his jib and his reputation as a centre forward on the local hurling team. A shift is like a snog, and Aisling’s very first shift was Tommy Cullen. She did three laps of the local teenage disco and when Tommy’s friend asked her to shift his mate, she went for it. He nearly took the face off her.

What a Complete Aisling glossary

Who wouldn’t almost have a heart attack at the thought of leaving the immersion on when I won’t be home ’til tomorrow?


Aisling’s best friend Majella is her polar opposite and the very definition of a hames. When Majella goes Out (or Out Out, the distinction is important; Out is a couple of sensible pints of Coors Light, Out Out is dancing ‘til 2am and falling asleep in a kebab) she will lose her phone as often as she loses her dignity. Aisling has never lost a phone in her life, although she still has it insured “just in case”.

Rose of Tralee

An Irish institution, the Rose of Tralee is the country’s nationally televised and hugely hyped Lovely Girls competition, which sees women travel from all over the world to compete in what organisers are very keen to emphasis is not a beauty pageant. You have to be under 27 to enter, and Aisling felt a pang of sadness on her 27th birthday that she would never grace the stage of the giant tent in Tralee as the Ballygobbard Rose to perform her party piece; a dramatic recitation of Irish poem Pangúr Bán. She’s been practising her wistful looks in the mirror since she was 11.


Action star Jason Statham once described Ireland’s national sport of hurling as “hockey mixed with murder” in an interview, and Aisling’s boyfriend John was so proud he shared it on Facebook - he usually only posts dutiful “happy birthday” messages. John’s a centre forward for the Knocknamanagh Rangers hurling team, meaning he plays an extremely fast and rough game of skill using a small rock-hard ball called a sliotar and a stick made of ash called a hurl. The female equivalent is called camogie, and it’s just as murderous.


Dublin has more watering holes than you can shake a hurl at, but if it’s a classic night of boogying you’re after, McGowan’s on the city’s northside is the place to be. Aisling is a McGowan’s regular. You’ll find her hoofing down the West Coast Coolers and the vodka and Diet Cokes (DIET Cokes) and minding the handbags. Songs that will get her on the floor include Single Ladies, Mr Brightside and C’est La Vie.

West Coast Cooler

A mix of white wine, sparkling water and fruit, West Coast Cooler is a classy beverage. Think Baby Cham. Plus, it only contains 2 WW points. Aisling likes hers with a class of ice; Majella likes hers with vodka. 

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