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The Irish For: Maura Higgins has brought the word 'shift' to a new audience - but where does it come from?

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28.07.2019

THIS IS THE latest dispatch from our columnist Darach Ó Séaghdha, author of the award-winning and bestselling Motherfoclóir. Every Sunday morning, Darach will be regaling (re-Gaeling?) us with insights on what the Irish language says about Ireland, our society, our past and our present. Enjoy.

Seift: a shift, ruse, trick, resource or expediency
Síofadh: to swoop upon

This summer has been an auspicious one for weirdos obsessed with Hiberno-English such as meself. The reason for this is the breakout star of television’s most popular show is a young Irish woman who’s been introducing audiences in Britain to certain Irish colloquialisms. I am, of course, referring to Maura Higgins and her stint on Love Island. In keeping with the show’s promise of romantic encounters, one of the terms she has used, and the one which has garnered the most attention, has been ‘shift’, meaning to kiss.

But where did the expression come from and how did it become the term of choice for outgoing youngsters across the island? And how strong is the claim that it came from Irish? (The........

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