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Use of "after"

Posted by Shae on August 09, 2003

In Reply to: Use of "after" posted by Doug Seaton on August 09, 2003

: : : An expression often used by my (Scottish) grandmother was "I'll (or You'll, or He'll, etc) be after" - e.g. "I'll be after a trip to the shops", which I can remember my dad explaining as Scottish-english having inherited some Gaelic roots. As I recall, he thought it should be interpreted as something like: "I'll [eventually] be [in the state corresponding to] after [having had] a trip to the shops".
: : : But this doesn't work for the expression used a few minutes ago by my (English) daughter: "I'm after a lift to town".
: : : What is the real basis, and just how should such expressions be parsed?

: : 'After' as used in both examples means 'seeking, looking for, wanting.' Your daughter wanted a lift to town. However, your grandmother was *demanding* a trip to the shops. The 'be' before 'after' makes a big difference. 'I'll be after' means 'I expect to be provided with . . .' whatever.
: Thanks, Shae. But what they *meant* wasn't really what I was after (said he, also using the expression). I'm curious about how such an expression came into being, whether my dad's theory has any basis in the historical development of the language, whether this usage has changed the word from its original time-related sense, and so on.

Dolan's Dictionary of Hiberno-English has a long entry for 'after.' The following omits some of the examples:

AFTER: used to form the Hiberno-English (HE) equivalent of the Standard English (SE) perfect (have . . .) and pluperfect (had . . .) past tenses. There is no verb 'have' in Irish [nor in Scottish Gaelic] and the past tenses are formed with parts of the verb 'be' with the preposition 'after.' HE 'I'm just after eating my dinner' is the equivalent of SE 'I've just had my dinner.' It is possible to say 'I'm after having my dinner' in SE, but that could mean 'I'm in pursuit of having my dinner' - the opposite of the meaning in HE.

Sommerville and Ross, 'Some experiences of an Irish RM,' 165: "'Twas the kitchen chimney cot fire, and faith she's afther giving Biddy Mahony the sack, on the head of it!" Joyce, 'Ulysses, 299.6: "Sure I'm after seeing him not five minutes ago."

'After' is also found in HE in situations where SE would have 'afterwards': Stoker, 'The Snake's Pass, 25: "Go on, man dear! fenesh the punch after."

[Spellings as they appear in the texts]