Sometimes I wonder which of my parents' sayings came from their parents. There must be some. I'd like it if I knew, so I could make a point of passing those ones in particular on to my own children. An oral history family-tree, we'd have.
When my parents came to visit us in Texas we took them to the zoo. When I rounded a corner and saw a bison ahead of us, I whispered to B that if he asked my Dad what that was, he'd say it was a biffalo buffalo bison. Sure enough, those were the first words out of my father's mouth when he saw the hulking shaggy brown creature.
My parents regularly employ the following words without irony: wireless, slacks, plimsolls, the mail boat*, hanky, cardi, serviette. I don't say any of these words, even ironically, because they're not things I need to say, or sometimes because I decided I didn't want to be someone who says "cardi."
Ireland is another country, and so is the past. My children will be at two removes from these words, and since they don't see their grandparents more than once a year, they're unlikely to remember them unless I do it for them. (My granny would offer me a chocolate from her ubiquitous box - people were always bringing her boxes of chocolates, because old ladies don't need anything - and say "Would a duck swim?" That's the only phrase I have that's uniquely hers in my mind. I wish there were more.)
I always feel that my syntax becomes more mobile when I'm in Ireland, my vocabulary a little more vernacular, my pronouncements more colourful. In America I bland it down, even it out, try not to confuse. I'm sure my friends and neighbours here will tell you that I still sound Irish, that I still say things that leave them scratching their heads on occasion, that I'll never just blend in: nor would I want to. But I feel a certain richness - if I ever had it, and I'm a very mild sort of Irishwoman really, from well inside the Pale - is lost, and maybe my new melting-pot land is the poorer for it.
*The ferry into Dun Laoghaire from Holyhead; it hasn't brought the mail along with its passengers for many a year, and why it's mail not post I don't know, now I come to think about it. Maybe it was used by the Royal Mail, back in the day.