Joint

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Play it, Sam.”

In his unbelievably moronic book How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word joint, an old slang term for a house or bar or place in general, derives from Irish. Now, the real experts are in agreement that the word seems to have originated in the English of Ireland, though not in the Irish language. As the Online Etymological Dictionary says:

Slang meaning of “place, building, establishment” (especially one where persons meet for shady activities) first recorded 1877, American English, from an earlier Anglo-Irish sense (1821), perhaps on the notion of a side-room, one “joined” to a main room.

For Cassidy, it comes from the Irish word díonta, which according to the Great Fraud means:

Díon (pron. jinn), díonta, (pron. jínnta), n., a shelter, a roof, state of being wind and watertight; fig., a shelter of any kind, a house, shack, shanty, lean-to, “roof over your head”, tent. Díonta, (pron. jínnta), p.p. sheltered (from elements), protected. Díonta = Díon, n. (Ó Dónaill, 413)

Is this an accurate account of the meanings of díon/díonta? Of course not!  As we have already said a number of times here, the letters fig. normally stand for ‘figuratively’ but in Cassidy’s work, they stand for ‘figment of Cassidy’s imagination.’ Cassidy wasn’t intelligent enough to understand how the words díon and díonta are used in Irish and he certainly wasn’t honest enough to give the facts as genuinely presented in the dictionaries.

Here is the real skinny on díon and díonta. Díon primarily means roof in Irish. It can also be used in a more general sense to mean protection. Thus uiscedhíonach means waterproof in Irish and tú féin a chur faoi dhíon duine means to place yourself under someone’s protection. However, it would not be used to mean a shelter or hide or hut, because there are better words for that, such as foscadh or scáthlán or dídeanDíonta is simply the plural of the noun díon and means rooves. Díon is also a verb in Irish and díonta can be the past participle of that verb – i.e. roofed or protected. However, words do not cross easily in Irish between grammatical categories and díonta would not be used for a roofed place or sheltered place, as Cassidy implies, any more than you would say “I took shelter in a roofed” in English.

In other words, if an Irish speaker hears díonta, they think of the noun roof in the plural. A couple of rooves, lots of rooves. They don’t think of shelters, or tents, or places, or low dives, or any other lying nonsense the voices in Cassidy’s head dictated to him from the Mothership.

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