What’s the crack?

Well, and I'm preparing a part for a play set in mid-20th-Century Ireland, and have been indulging myself in some Irish music and whatnot, and was reminded of the word craic.

Well, and they're spelling it crack—evidently there are strong feelings as to the correct spelling of the word. There's a line of thought that says that it's a direct borrowing from the English, and therefore spelling it as if it were Gaelic while speaking English is tushery of the worst sort. The OED is less certain, it seems, saying It is unclear whether Scottish Gaelic craic is < Irish or < Scots, and whether the use of the English form craic in Scotland is after Irish English or Scottish Gaelic. It has no entry (properly speaking) for crack in the sense of craic, although that may just be that there are a hundred billion meanings for crack, n. and they may all just be having a wee lie-down instead of adding another.

At any rate, the reason I bring it up here in the Words& Stuff is that for whatever reason, I simply cannot bring myself to use the word. My castmembers and I do a fair amount of jokingly addressing each other in dialect but for all my gosh-and-begorrah macushla, I cannot bring me-self to enter the rehearsal room and say what's the crack? Perhaps it's because of the rock cocaine with the same name? Or perhaps it's that the slang is too contemporary for a play set in the 1930s? We are not generally, in our back and forth, pretending to be in the world of the play, and I find that my joke-Oirish dialect is significantly different from my acting-Donegal dialect, which is… a Good Thing? Yeah, a Good Thing. Or maybe it's the age difference, as I am old enough to have fathered any one of them and probably each of them in succession. Or it's just that I can't somehow say what's the crack without giggling.


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