Cassidese Glossary – Ball

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Cassidy claims that ball is a Scottish Gaelic word that primarily means a dance and has the secondary meanings of ‘a spot, a place’. This is not an honest representation of the facts. Dwelly does not claim that the primary meaning of the word is ‘a dance’. Dwelly defines ball as follows:

Ball 1. Member, limb. 2 Member of a society. 3 Male instrument of generation, {penis}. 4 Any part of male or female dress. 5 Instrument, tool, implement. 6 Ball, globe. 7 Football. 8 Dance. 9 Spot or plot of ground. 10** Boss. 11‡‡ Stud, nail. 12** Bowl. 13 Cable, rope. 14(G) Soum of cattle. 15 Weapon.

Other Gaelic dictionaries do not give the subsidiary meaning of ‘Dance’ at all.

While Dwelly does give dance as a minor subsidiary meaning of the word ball, it seems likely that ball as in dance is not the same word as the Gaelic ball meaning member in etymological terms. It is probably a borrowing from the English word ball, meaning dance, which ultimately derives from Latin ballare through French. The meanings of ball, globe and football are also plainly borrowings from English.

Also, there is a difference between the primary meaning of a word (which is implied in Cassidy’s definition) and the eighth meaning of a word. For example, water is primarily defined as a liquid that falls as rain and forms streams, lakes and seas etc. You might even understand the more obscure meaning of water as the clarity of a gemstone, but how many people would understand the 8th definition of water as given by Merriam Webster: ‘stock not representing assets of the issuing company and not backed by earning power’?

The fact is, ball in the sense of dance is obviously not of Gaelic origin, so it is irrelevant to Cassidy’s argument.

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