The Luck of the Irish
"The luck of the Irish" is an old idiom that has evolved to have many meanings over the years, not many people question what the phrase actually means. For the most part, people assume it just means the Irish are a very lucky bunch. However, it may surprise you to find that this is not the case.
Origins of the Saying
There is actually some disagreement among scholars when it comes to figuring out where this idiom originally came from, but there are a few theories that are floated around.
An Old Mining Expression
The most common origin story says that the phrase actually has American roots and was not meant as a compliment.
One professor at Holy Cross College says that the phrase was originally used as an old mining expression because there were a large number of successful Irish miners. He says that the phrase "carried a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck could these fools succeed."
Luck or Fortune?
There are other people who believe that the phrase should really be "the fortune of the Irish." Historically speaking, the Irish tend to have a lot of ill fortune. However, whether it's war, famine or prejudice, they always seem to pull through and be just as strong as before.
Another, less common theory is that the phrase really has nothing to do with the hard times faced but rather the inherent superstitious nature of the Celtic people. While Catholicism did its best to eliminate the pagan traditions and superstitions, there are still plenty that linger. In this case, luck of the Irish would be a reference to the old, Celtic beliefs surrounding good and bad luck.
What does it Mean?
Regardless of the wording or the origin, there is one thread that runs through every theory. The Irish are a tough, optimistic people who succeed even when the odds are against them.
Whether it's used seriously or as a tongue in cheek sentiment, there is no denying that the Irish are proud of their heritage, their country and their way of life.
How the Expression is Used Today
Today, the phrase has more or less lost whatever its original meaning was intended to be. In fact, most of the people who use it now tend to say it in a wistful, almost nostalgic kind of way.
Others most often use the phrase as a funny, lighthearted expression that simply means "extremely fortunate" or "extreme good fortune
Whether you're Irish or just love the phrase, these days the luck of the Irish is for everyone.