Coming Up The Liffey On A Bicycle

When I was preparing my post last week about Dublin and the River Liffey, I remembered one of my teachers in Ireland and a very funny expression she used all the time. Credit

Back in the late 70’s and early ’80’s many of our teachers were nuns.  I remember one sister in particular, and her favorite expression.

She was from County Cork and taught chemistry to all the Dublin girls in our class.  She was a wonderful teacher – great fun, and easy to listen to with her lilting Cork accent.

Whenever anyone tried to pull the wool over her eyes by making up a story about forgetting homework, she would see right through every paltry excuse.  She always answered with the same hilarious expression.

“I didn’t come up the Liffey on a bicycle.”


Everyone in the class inevitably broke down laughing whenever she said it.  I think we all had visions of her pedaling her bicycle down the middle of the river, with her veil blowing in the wind. Credit


This expression is a substitute for asking:


“Do you think I’m stupid or what?”


Lets face it, you would have to be a few shillings short of a pound, to attempt to ride a bicycle on water.

I think I will save this saying and adapt it when my kids are teenagers.  When they try to pull a fast one on their Irish mom, I’ll just tell them:


“I didn’t come up the Ohio on a bicycle?”


Can’t you just imagine their teenage brow raising, eye rolling and tongue-tutting responses.  I better not say it in front of their friends.  They’ll probably explain me away with:


“Don’t mind her – she’s Irish!” Credit


And so, to all you parents of teenagers, please feel free to adapt this lovely Irish expression, by using the name of your local river.  Our New Yorkers can say:

“I didn’t came up the Hudson on a bicycle.”

Bostonians can say:

“I didn’t come up the Charles on a bicycle.”


The possibilities are endless.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)



Irish American Mom