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With illustrations by Terry Willers For the unprepared visitor Irish conversation can be a minefield. 'How's the craic ?' is not an assumption that you are well versed in the properties of narcotics substances, merely an enquiry after your health and general well-being. A seemingly easy question like 'Your'e not from around here are ye?' requires a far more detailed reply than 'No, I'm not'. In order not to be thought rude you should supply details of where you live, why you are in Ireland, the tiny village, now deserted, from which your great-great grandfather emigrated in the year dot, and, to be really accepted, your salary figure, marital status and daily eating habits! To the uninitiated, advice like this might seem extreme, but, as Tadhg Hayes points out, the proper answer will save you from insistent and repeated questioning, which, in the case of the Irish, is motivated by genuine interest and not just downright nosiness. Having safely negotiated the opening gambits, plenty of other conversational pitfalls await the visitor. GIFT OF THE GAB covers them all and will see you through any topic, from THE WEATHER, SPORT, DRINK, DEATH, how to interpret travel directions and statements on a person's financial situation (see THE POOR MOUTH). For Improvers there are useful phrases to add colour to your conversation, including the essential 'feck', 'fecking' and its variations. All in all, the most essential thing, after your umbrella, you will need for an enjoyable holiday in Ireland.