What Is Pulling The "Irish Goodbye"?
An Irish Goodbye is when a person leaves a bar or party or other gathering surreptitiously, without saying goodbye to anyone. The Irish Goodbye could be a furtive sneak out the back door, 'running out to get something from the car' and not returning, a trip to the bathroom that never ends, etc. You get the idea. Basically, the Irish Goodbye is when you want to get away without the awkwardness, slow down or emotions of an actual goodbye or kiss on the cheek.
Why would someone pull an Irish Goodbye?
There are many, many reasons why someone might pull an Irish Goodbye.
He or she may be so drunk that they absolutely, positively,must, must, must go NOW. This could be because they are about to puke, or it may be that they are close to losing their ability to stand, make conversation, hold a thought, etc. It simply is time to go.
A common time to pull an Irish Goodbye is when you see that dreaded, crazy ex come into the room. You know how this meeting will go — tears, yells or propositions are likely to happen, and you just don't have the stomach for it. Exit stage right; it's time for an Irish Goodbye.
You have been stuck in a long, deadly dull conversation all night with an eager member of the opposite sex. Far easier to pull a Houdini than navigate how to go home solo without an awkward conversation or hurting anyone's feelings.
It simply is time to go. You aren't too drunk, and you aren't avoiding anyone, but goodbyes aren't your thing, and delaying your departure for even 5 minutes is pointless. Irish Goodbye it and get out of there, already.
Why Is It Called An Irish Goodbye?
There's no definitive explanation of how the Irish Goodbye got its name.
One theory holds that the Irish Goodbye originated during the Potato Famine of 1845-1852 when many Irish fled their homeland for America. At the time, distance and technology meant that when someone went to America, they were gone forever and it was unlikely they would ever again speak to or see friends or family back home. The departure was sudden and absolute.
Another explanation for the Irish Goodbye originating during the Irish Potato Famine holds that when someone planned to leave Ireland for America, family and friends would send them off. Since this was likely the last time the person leaving would see their friends of family, the leave-taking was an emotional affair. To avoid the sad, emotional goodbyes, some emigrants would up and go without telling anyone what they were up to, thereby saving themselves sad, protracted goodbyes and leave-taking. Not having a going away party or other gathering cold also spare someone the family pressures to stay, not to go, and was a way to maintain one's resolve to leave everything familiar in the desperate hope of a better life across the ocean in America.
A totally different definition of the Irish Goodbye is related to the Irish Goodbye as a break up technique. This definition, according to urban legend, was coined by a woman who had two different Irish boyfriends ditch her in a bar as their way of breaking off the relationship. After a second Irish guy left her alone in the bar, she called the technique of dumping someone by ditching them the "Irish Goodbye."
Other Competing Definitions of the Irish Goodbye
Though consensus holds that an Irish Goodbye is when one leaves a party or bar without letting anybody know that you are going, there are other (less popular or common) definitions of the Irish Goodbye out there.
One is that an Irish Goodbye is a not very nice or mature way of letting someone you have been seeing or fooling around with know that you aren't into it anymore. This definition involves going Radio Silent on someone — not calling them anymore, not returning calls, just up and disappearing from their life without a word.
Another definition of the Irish Goodbye is quite the opposite of the primary definition — it says that an Irish Goodbye is a lengthy, interminable goodbye that goes on and on. According to this definition, the Irish are chatty folks, especially after a few drinks, and what starts as a quick goodbye sometimes stretches to a one- or two-hour leave-taking. An Irish Goodbye, therefore, is drawn-out goodbye that takes way too long as the conversation keeps going and going and going.
The True Irish Goodbye
Urban legends and idioms aside, there is a real "Irish Goodbye."
The word for 'goodbye' in Gaelic is "Slán," pronounced 'slawn.'