Gimmick

This is another ridiculous claim of Cassidy’s, that the word ‘gimmick’ comes from the Irish camóg, which according to The Great Fraud means ‘a trick’, ‘a deceit’ or ‘a hooked stick’. Gimmick first makes its appearance in the 1920s. It originally meant a device for fixing a roulette wheel or something similar at a fairground so that people would not win anything valuable. It then came to mean any kind of magician’s device and then a publicity stunt or politician’s trick.

Its origin is not known. Some have suggested a link to gimcrack but there are no good suggestions on the table. Among the no-good suggestions on the table is Cassidy’s idea that it comes from the Irish camóg. Camóg is a diminutive of the word cam, meaning crooked.  

Here are its definitions, according to the electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s dictionary.

1. crook, hooked stick

2. camogie stick (camogie is the women’s version of hurling)

3. gaff-hook

4. chinks

5. camóg ara, hollow of temple

6. a. concave scallop shell

6. b. small wooden dish

7. wisp (of smoke)

8. ripple (on water)

9. comma 

Is there anything there which makes you automatically think of devices or tricks? Maybe the original gimmick which was used to interfere with the wheel of fortune was hooked. And maybe it wasn’t. But I can’t really see why camóg would become gimmick, where the vowels are completely different and the g and c are reversed. Cassidy spoofed a lot about the ‘English phonetic overcoats’ which cover his candidate ‘Irish’ phrases but the fact is that most genuine borrowed words look a lot like the word they derive from. Samurai, bagel and shebeen may not be exactly like their Japanese, Yiddish or Irish source-words but they’re close enough and I see no reason why fairground folk wouldn’t have talked about kammogs instead of gimmicks if this were really the origin of the word.

Once again, Cassidy’s idea is superficially attractive but turns out to be very, very unlikely.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s