Carrying The Banner

Another utterly ridiculous claim in this absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the slang term ‘carrying the banner’ comes from the Irish comhshaoránach bonnaire, which supposedly means ‘fellow-citizen foot-man or walker’. If you speak any Irish at all, which Cassidy didn’t, you will realise how crazy this claim is.

For one thing, the word saoránach originally meant a freeman. It only acquired its current meaning of citizen when the Irish state was struggling to develop a modern vocabulary after the language had been sidelined for centuries by the British. It first occurs in this sense in the 1922 constitution. And bonnaire is an unusual word for a walker or a footman. The whole phrase (which would be pronounced koh-heerannah bonnarra if it really existed) is ridiculously contrived. It is not real Irish. It was invented to order by an ignorant fantasist in order to sound like an English slang expression.

Then there is the little matter that carrying the banner, a slang term for walking the streets all night, is very easy to understand. If you carry the banner in a parade, you keep walking the streets. You don’t bring the banner into a bar or a house. You walk with it. So this is a jocular way of saying that you have nowhere to stay and you walk the streets all night. It’s not rocket science. How anyone could be stupid enough to believe Cassidy’s version is a mystery to me.

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