My West Cork granny frequently referred to jigs and reels in her daily speech. Whenever she was a little flustered, in a hurry, or feeling chaotic, she would make an exclamation about Irish dancing, no less.
1. “Between the jigs and the reels, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.”
Any stranger would believe she was an Irish step dancing champion with her constant referral to the two most popular of all Irish dances.
2. “Between the jigs and the reels, what are we up to now?”
But as far as I know, she was no Riverdancer, although I suppose in her youth she rattled a few dance boards at the crossroads.
Her referral to jigs and reels was typically Irish – an idiom used to express perceived stress and difficulties. Perhaps this statement evolved as a reflection of the chaotic foot movement of Irish dancing.
3. “Between the jigs and the reels, I finally got it done.”
In this instance the saying reflects success was achieved, despite all the confusion.
4. “I don’t know how we did it, but between the jigs and the reels, we’re finally ready to go.”
The primary way my granny used this expression was to say “what with one thing and another”.
5. “So, between the jigs and the reels, poor Mikey lost the cow.”
The jigs and the reels often expressed the trials and tribulations of farming life.
At other times she used the phrase to express her determination, the words taking on a hopeful meaning of “somehow or another.”
6. “I’ll get that money together, between the jigs and the reels.”
As you can see, the jigs and the reels were frequently invoked during my childhood.
I was wondering if any of you remember your Irish relatives using this expression. Perhaps they paired it with another typically Irish exclamation. Please feel free to join in this little Irish dancing discussion, in the comments section below.
And so, between the jigs and the reels of life as mom, it’s time for me to sign off.
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings),
* Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.
**Origainlly published in December 2014.