Slainte

In Brief

A couple of Irish words enter the polyglot texture of Proteus through the mouth of Kevin Egan. As he takes a sip of his "green fairy" he offers a common Irish drinking toast: "Well, slainte!" Later he says, "I was a strapping young gossoon at that time, I tell you," using an Anglo-Irish word for a young man.

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The Gaelic word sláinte (SLAHN-chə) means "health." Its meaning and function as a toast are similar to those of salut, salud, and salute in Romance languages.

"Gossoon" derives from the French word garçon and has similar meanings: boy, lad, young man, servant. The OED does not record uses before the 17th century, but it seems likely that it came to Ireland with the Normans. Dolan's Dictionary of Hiberno-English notes that "It has been (fancifully) claimed that the French root of this word may indicate the practice of Anglo-Norman gentry calling their Irish serving-boys 'garçon.'"

JH 2014
Ceramic plaque in the style of the Book of Kells. Source: theirishgifthouse.com.