Póg mo thóin

Kiss me I'm Irish

At a St. Patrick's Day parade. "Kiss me I'm Irish".

Recently I had an email conversation with a lady who was deeply offended by the use of Póg mo thóin phrase on www.irish-sayings.com. She found it deeply offensive to Irish culture. At the time I thought the problem was the Irish phrase, but the more I read the emails, the more I think it was the English translation of “mo thóin” that was the problem – the fact that “my ass” was written where anybody could see it. At the moment I am not sure what was offensive to her – was it the expression itself and the meaning of it, or the rudeness of the English translation (ass rather than bottom) and the accessibility of it to young and susceptible individuals, or maybe even the mixture of both. The fact is that Póg mo thóin is the most popular phrase on irish-sayings.com, listened to more than 1 million times! Therefore it’s located on the top of the page where everybody entering the page can see it.

I find neither Irish phrase nor English translation offensive at all.  Tóin is not a derogatory expression and there are much harsher words in English than ass. It must have been the negative connotation of the word ass in relation to the clean image of tóin that upset the lady.

Fast food in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day.

Fast food in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day.

I find the phrase Póg mo thóin a tourist attraction, created for the amusement of millions of tourists who come visit Ireland every year. Would it be better for sensitive individuals if it was translated Kiss my bottom or buttocks, backside, rear or seat? Or would it be better, in their opinion, if it didn’t exist at all?

For me, Póg mo thóin was the first phrase I learned. From it I learned that póg means a kiss or to kiss, I also learned that mo means my, that thóin is actually tóin and means butt and that the letter h in thóin was there to express the case of the word.

Pretty much information in 3 words, don’t you think? And this is why I don’t find it offensive.


There are 7 comments for this post.
  1. Comment #1
    Máirtín on March 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    My sister at age 3 and I at age 7 were taught this phrase along with “suigh síos” by my Gaelic speaking, Roscommon born grandfather in 1949 while living in New Jersey USA. I’ll leave the translation of the latter as an educational exercise. Seems that we have entered into a neo-Victorian, neo-Puritan era where everything offends everybody. It’s impossible to offend me with words because my mother (both her parents born in Ireland) taught me as a child that “Sticks and stones can break my back but words can never hurt me.” Many of my Irish American relatives were also taught the phrase, “póg mo thóin,” which they still use to this day and rather than be offended, we all get a good laugh about it. My Irish relatives in Ireland also appear to get a good laugh out of it.

  2. Comment #2
    Russell on July 13, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Haha. It’s funny, but I actually like “Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat” a lot better.

  3. Comment #3
    Will on September 9, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Y’know what? You should tell anyone who’s offended by this to…well, pog mo thoin….

  4. Comment #4
    DaVinci on September 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Sad, this is what Irish culture offers? I think this is an American thing. The Irish are not so vulgar and ignorant in their own land.

  5. Comment #5
    fallagofalla on April 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    ref “Póg mo thóin”, the translation persistently uses the Americanism “ass” which in that place signifies the human rear-end. Bully for the Americans adeirimse but the Irish for “ass” is asal ( say “ossell”)while the Irish for arse is thóin. The Irish language is a VERY specific language and does not engage in euphemisms. If we wanted to say kiss my ass in Irish we would say “Póg m’asal” I’ve never heard that one as gaeilge but I’ve heard the other one many times. By the way “bottom” is bun as gailge, but there is no way you could say “póg mo bun” as it would be nonsense as gaeilge.

  6. Comment #6
    Niamh on May 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    As a fluent Irish speaker, I can safely say that every Irish speaker whether fluent or not knows this phrase, and most who know little Irish also are familiar with it. Ass, whilst meaning a donkey, also has come to mean the human rear-end, and whilst “kiss my backside” is a literal translation, the art of translation is making one phrase sound natural in another language. “kiss my ass” is far more common in Hiberno-English than is “kiss my bottom/bum/backside/rear-end” and is thus a far better translation. If everything was translated literally, most Irish phrases would make no sense whatsoever to the native English speaker!

  7. Comment #7
    LOL on June 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    LOL! Come back and say that after spending a couple of weeks with fishermen from Cork.

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