What would bilingual Irish gangster slang have been like?

As I have said repeatedly in this blog, Cassidy’s explanations for American slang are completely unconvincing. Baloney does not come from béal ónna, heeler does not come from éilitheoir, crony does not come from comh-roghna. Almost all of Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of slang are nonsense. However, it does beg the question: If Irish slang had developed out of the bilingual dialect of Irish-American gangsters, what would it have sounded like? I think it might have sounded something like this:

“So, now, Dinny a whack1, you’re after tellin’ me dat dat cackaronya2 Finnegan is up to a bit of da old amaidí3. Damnoo air4, it’ll be dear on him5 if he carries on. Dere’ll be meelya murder6 and no mistake. We’ll hit da little laganya7 wid da law ledger8. I mean, we had a maragoo9! Whatever happened to cothrom na gceithearnach10!”

  1. a mhac – used (along with a mhic) to mean sonny, boyo
  2. cackaronya – cac ar oineach (lit. shit on honour), a worthless person
  3. amaidí – stupidity, nonsense
  4. Damnoo air – (damnú air), damnation on it!
  5. it’ll be dear on him – partial translation of beidh daor air, he will be the worse for it
  6. meelya murder – míle murdar, (lit. a thousand murders), a riot, an uproar – also found in Irish English
  7. laganya – leathdhuine, a half-person, an idiot
  8. law ledger – sounds like lámh láidir, the strong arm, violence
  9. maragoo – margadh, a deal.
  10. the fairness of kerns, equivalent to ‘honour among thieves’ in English.


In other words, a lot of Irish-influenced English expressions, some at least which are found in Irish English. A lot of code-switching, with fully Irish phrases like cothrom na gceithearnach thrown in all over the place. However, the thing to note is that nobody reading or hearing this would be in any doubt that this was the result of a mixture of Irish and English.

Cassidy’s suggestions are nothing like genuine Irish.

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