Another oft-quoted Cassidy gem is the word scam, which Cassidy linked to the phrase is cam é or ’s cam é, meaning ‘it’s crooked’. This is a slightly odd phrase, though it is possible that someone would say it. The problem with this is that it is a phrase. Why would someone who was bilingual in Irish and English use a phrase rather than a word like caimiléireacht (which means fraud or deception)? So a bilingual person saying ‘It’s a ’s cam’ is really saying ‘It’s a it’s crooked’. Highly unlikely.

Back in the real world, scam probably comes from the Spanish escamotear, which is defined as:

            to palm, to conceal; to lift, to swipe; to cover up.

Here’s a definition in Spanish from  The second example essentially means ‘they stole a thousand pesetas from me in front of everybody.’


   Hacer desaparecer algo mediante un hábil juego de manos de manera que        los presentes no se den cuenta:

            el mago escamoteó un par de palomas y un conejo.

            2. Robar o quitar algo con agilidad y astucia:

            me han escamoteado mil pesetas delante de todo el mundo.

            3. Eludir, evitar, suprimir intencionadamente:

            cuando habla de su marido no escamotea elogios.

This is a much more likely candidate, as the meaning is exactly right and you don’t have to put two words together in order to make up a suitable phrase. All the letters are there in escamotear!

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