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!’