Cassidese Glossary – Buck

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The word buck meaning a male animal or a party animal is very similar in sound and meaning to the Irish boc, with a similar set of meanings. Some scholars regard boc as being a borrowing from Old English, though there are similar words in other Celtic languages. However, whatever the relationship between the English word buck and the Irish word boc, there is no doubt that the English word buck goes back to a Middle English word bucke and then to an Old English word bucca. In other words, it has been in English for so long that it is very unlikely to be a borrowing from Irish, and it has cognates in other Germanic languages which make a direct Celtic origin improbable.

Cassidy gets around these inconvenient facts by taking a quotation from MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary of 1896 and misinterpreting it:

MacBain’s dictionary derives buck from boc, and the Gaelic languages, and thence to a Sanskrit root: “boc, a buck, Irish boc, he-goat, Old Irish bocc, Welsh bwch, Cornish boch, Breton bouch’h, bukko-s; Sanskrit bukka, goat.” (MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary, 1896, [1982].)

Just look again at the quotation given by Cassidy above. MacBain categorically does not derive buck from boc. He is deriving the modern Gaelic and Irish word boc from Old Irish and comparing this to a Sanskrit root. (Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-European language – it provides cognates of other Indo-European languages. It is not Proto-Indo-European and Celtic and Germanic languages do not derive their vocabulary or roots ‘from’ Sanskrit.) MacBain is not saying anything about the relationship between boc and buck beyond that buck is the English translation of boc. The clue’s in the name. MacBain’s dictionary is an etymological dictionary of Gaelic – it’s not about the etymology of English words.

Advertisements

Cassidese Glossary – Bubba

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

 

Bubba and its shortened form bub are believed to be 19th century American English terms representing a childish mispronunciation of brother. (Though there are other theories – the Anglo-Romani linguist Ian Hancock claimed an African origin through Gullah, though this theory has not met with general acceptance.)

Cassidy claims that the bubba of the poor American south and a 17th century slang term bubber meaning ‘a drinker’ are the same, thus defining the term bubba as meaning ‘a thief, a trickster, a drinker’. In fact, if you look at cant dictionaries, bubber is defined as ‘a large drinking bowl; a drinker’ and there is no logical reason to link bubba with the earlier cant term.

Cassidy derives bub and bubba (and bubber) from the Irish words bob (meaning ‘a trick’) and its derivative bobaire, (meaning ‘a trickster’, though Cassidy claims that it figuratively means ‘a wise guy’.). As these Irish expressions have nothing to do with the meanings of bubba or of bubber, there is no reason to suppose a connection.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Brisk

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy claimed that the English word brisk derives from the Irish briosc, the primary meaning of which is brittle. It does have some other meanings, such as brisk and lively, but these are probably meanings borrowed from English. The usual claim about the English word brisk is that it derives from the French word brusque, as in this item from Etymonline:

https://www.etymonline.com/word/brisk

This seems the most likely explanation. There is no evidence for an Irish origin.

Cassidese Glossary – Brat

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.
Cassidy quotes the Oxford English Dictionary in relation to this word, though most of the time he claims that the OED and other professional lexicographers and linguists are wrong. The word brat means a badly-behaved child. It is believed to have developed from a word meaning a rag or makeshift garment (compare English toe-rag), which is probably derived from Irish or some other Celtic language. In Irish, the word brat means a cloth or covering. A brat urláir is a floor covering or carpet, if there is a snowfall the land is faoi bhrat sneachta (under a covering of snow), and the traditional Irish mantle called a brat was once a major export of the country.

Cassidese Glossary – Brag

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy claims that the English word brag, meaning to boast, comes from the Irish word bréag, meaning a lie.

According to Cassidy, “The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology speculates that the word brag might possibly have an Irish origin, though inexplicably links it to a Celtic word meaning trousers: ‘brag … of uncertain origin; possible sources include Gaullish [sic] or Celtic ‘braca,’ (a) kind of trousers …’ Barnhart also cites Provencal, French (Swiss dialect), Scandinavian and Old Icelandic as other possible sources of brag.”

I don’t have a copy of Barnhart, so I can’t confirm or refute Cassidy’s interpretation of what it says about this word here, though I suspect that Cassidy has doctored the facts to suit his argument.

Anyway, the facts about the word brag are well-known and beyond doubt. The verb brag is well attested in English as far back as the 14th century, which means that it didn’t come from bréag and has nothing to do with Irish slang in America. For example, the Michigan Middle English Dictionary has this, written around 1400 in the poem Piers Plowman:

He bosteth and braggeth with many bolde othes. (He boasts and brags with many bold oaths.)

The ultimate origin of this verb brag is unknown, though possible sources are a Middle English adjective meaning proud or ostentatious which is probably of Celtic origin or an Old Norse word bragr “the best, the toast (of anything).”

The Irish bréag means ‘a lie’. It doesn’t mean the same thing as bragging or boasting. There are a number of expressions for bragging in Irish: ag déanamh mórtais, ag braigeáil (a loan word from English brag!), maíomh a dhéanamh as rud, ag déanamh a mhór díot féin and half a dozen others.

In addition to brag, English also has a word braggard or braggart, which comes from a French word braguer, which does (probably) come from a word of Celtic origin meaning breeches. (I suspect that the omitted piece in Cassidy’s treatment of Barnhart above probably includes the end of the piece on brag and the beginning of the piece about braggart. Thus Cassidy’s truncated version suggests that the reference to trousers refers to the verb brag, not to the noun braggart.) In spite of the fact that braggart and brag are related in meaning and similar in sound, they are apparently not connected at all etymologically. Coincidences like this are more common than you might think – the best example is probably English dear and Irish daor, almost identical in sound, both meaning expensive, but completely unrelated.

Cassidese Glossary – Brace

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, says that a brace game is a crooked gambling game. He claims that it comes from the Irish phrase beir as.

I don’t know where brace comes from in this case, though the strongest suggestion seems to be that it comes from a kind of brace or lever used to fix the device known as a case keeper in the card game Faro.

It doesn’t come from beir as, which is a dictionary entry, not a phrase. Beir is an imperative (an order or instruction) and as means ‘out of’. So it means, if it means anything, ‘take out of’.

Cassidy provides no evidence for his meaning of crooked. Nobody has ever used cluiche beir as to mean anything in Irish, let alone a crooked game. Here are some genuine uses of beir as:

Beir as é, take it away.

Beir as tú! Go away! You don’t mean it!

Rug siad as an oíche mar sin, in that way they passed the night.

Ag breith as, making off.

Dá mbeadh breith as dá rogha agam, if I could pick and choose.

Cassidese Glossary – Bozark

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Cassidy says that the word bozark is a carnival term for a wrestling or boxing match between women. He claims that the word derives from basóg, diminutive of bas meaning palm of the hand.

Firstly, bozark looks to me like a portmanteau word combining Ozark and berserk. In other words, mountain women going crazy.

Secondly, basóg is a pre-reform variant of the modern boiseog (pronounced bwishogue). Which version sounds more credible for a savage fight between carnival women, a word which implies mountainy women going berserk, or an Irish word for a slap around the face?