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"Shirts" or "shorts" in Irish English


Kilkenny, Ireland, 2002 —

Tirty-tree and a toord

The soft "th" sound is often identical to the hard "t." ...

In southeast Ireland, I can barely hear the difference between the words "shirts" and "shorts."

I'm working in Kilkenny at Heaton's, a retail store ("department store" in my American English.) I'm in charge of the gents' department, keeping items stocked on the floor, organizing the corresponding section of the storeroom, and working the backup cash register when the girls need me.

T_, the manager, speaks with a marked southeastern accent. Several times, I've had to ask him "did you say shirts or shorts?" I have a really hard time hearing a difference, and I just have to admit it sometimes. Both words are pretty close to what I would phoneticize as "shoorts."

The added complication at work is that "shirts" is a specific item—a formal shirt—and is not preceeded by any adjective. You wouldn't say, for example, "button-down shirt," because that's what a "shirt" is. Unless one is specific about what kind of "shorts" they're looking for, I often have to ask for clarification.

—Kilkenny, June 2002


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