The visiting American University academic professed an interest in semantics, and especially in the local variety of word usage. 

I directed him to the Fews Glossary on this site.

It wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to meet a local ‘character’ who still practiced what is sometimes referred to here as Elizabethan English – in deference, no doubt, to the first of the English Queens to bear that name, rather than to the present incumbent.

I soon lost interest in the boring man. Tiring of his company I directed him towards a well-known, but particularly monosyllabic South Armagh character who happened to be partaking of a pint in the hostelry we were all visiting at the time.

Some time later I felt a tug on my arm.

Drawing me aside, he demanded to know more about the other man:  who he was, whether he understood American and, in particular, why he persisted in repeated the one word.

I asked him what that word might be.

‘Tarror!’ he replied instantly.

‘No matter what I ask him, that’s all he says!’

I suspected that he was close to tears!

‘He uses it to express puzzlement, surprise!

To express condolence, admiration – and lots of other emotions,’ he concluded.

After a short pause, he went on anxiously,

‘Could you explain to me’, said he,

‘What exactly ‘tarror’ means?’

In turn, I drew him aside into a nearby snug.

‘You mean,’ I enquired,

‘that you don’t know what ‘tarror’ means?’

‘That’s it exactly,’ he insisted.

‘Well, now,’ said I, puzzled in my turn,

‘But that’s a holy tarror!’


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