Monthly Archives: April 2019

Cassidese Glossary – By Golly

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 says that this is ‘an oath or exclamation’. Although all reputable etymological sources regard this as a minced oath for ‘By God’ or ‘By God’s Body’ dating back to the 18th century, Cassidy doesn’t even mention this possibility. Instead, he links it to the genuine Irish phrase bíodh geall air, which means ‘I’ll bet’. This is not a great match in terms of sound (it is pronounced bee-oo gyal air) or meaning. Even the examples Cassidy gives work better if we assume that By Golly stands for By God than for I’ll bet you! in Irish.

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Cassidese Glossary – Button

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.

This is another perfect example of Cassidy’s incompetence as a researcher. Cassidy claims that button, which apparently is a slang term for a dealer in gambling, derives from the ‘Irish’ phrase beart t-aon, which Cassidy says means ‘the one who deals’. This is complete nonsense. Beart means an act or action. In games it means a move (as in a move in chess or in backgammon) and it is not likely that it would be used for a deal in cards. Most Irish speakers would use déanamh for this – you could also use roinnt or dáileadh.

Even if it did mean a deal of cards, this doesn’t mean that it could be used for the person who deals the cards. And while the word aon means one (as in the numeral) it isn’t used to mean ‘the one (who did something)’. This is an . So, how would real Irish speakers say ‘the one who deals’?  An té a dhéanann na cártaí, or An té a dháileann na cártaí, or An té a roinneann na cártaí. Not beart t-aon. And what is that t- doing there? How could that possibly make any sense in terms of the rules of Irish grammar?

This is a little like somone claiming that the dealer in a game of cards would be called el repartir uno in Spanish.

Cassidese Glossary – Butter and Eggman

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.

Butter and Eggman is a phrase that was used in the Jazz Era for a ‘sugar daddy’, a person who pays for someone else’s food and board in exchange for certain favours. How do I know this? Well, Cassidy conveniently provides a quotation which says as much:

“I’ll buy you all the pretty things that you think you need ‘cause I’m your big butter and egg man …”

However, in spite of giving this quotation, Cassidy does not believe that this phrase has anything to do with butter or eggs. No, according to Cassidy, this comes from an ‘Irish’ phrase bodaire an aicme án, which Cassidy says means a debauchee of the noble class or ‘figuratively’ a wild upperclass lout. This is nonsense, for a number of reasons.

For one thing, the word bodach would be familiar to me, though it sounds very old-fashioned, but I have never heard bodaire in use. Cassidy took an enormous dictionary, found things that looked a bit like the sound he was trying to find, and then used obscure variant forms of those words given in the dictionaries if they sounded closer. In this case, he doesn’t stop with Irish dictionaries, throwing in the Scottish Gaelic bodair from Dwelly’s dictionary for good measure! This is a bit like going to a Dutch dictionary if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for in a German one!

The word aicme is modern Irish and is used in Irish in words like meánaicmeach, middle class. It is not used to mean social class in ordinary conversational Irish and indeed, its use in sociology would only be found in the mid to late 20th century, too late to be relevant here.

The word án is old-fashioned and not at all common in modern Irish – certainly not as common as Cassidy’s use of it in his etymologies would suggest.

And then again, the word aicme is feminine, so in genuine Irish, the phrase would have to be bodaire na haicme áine, not bodaire an aicme án.

Cassidese Glossary – Buster

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.

If you look at Douglas Harper’s excellent website, Online Etymology Dictionary, at

https://www.etymonline.com/word/buster, you will find that the word buster apparently first surfaced in the 1830s in the Missouri/Arkansas area. Its original meaning was an exceptional thing or a very strong man and it seems to derive from bust as in break. It also came to mean a spree and the kind of person who would be out on a spree.

Cassidy ignores these facts and inexplicably decides that buster means a fellow, a joker, a roisterer and that it comes from the Irish word pastaire.

According to Ó Dónaill, pastaire means “cheeky fellow; brat”. Of course, there is no evidence linking pastaire with buster, and Cassidy only manages to make a case by changing the meanings so that both words apparently mean ‘trickster’.

Cassidese Glossary – Burg

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 this word is used to mean a town, usually a dismissive reference to a small town. Scholars say that this is because so many small towns in America have burg in their names (Healdsburg, Louisburg, Evansburg).

Cassidy disagrees with this. He gives a rambling, irrelevant and partly incorrect account of the history of the word burg, which is of Germanic origin and has cognates in other branches of Indo-European. It is not from Late Latin burgus, as Cassidy says, as this was a borrowing from Germanic rather than the other way round.

In addition to having cognates in Irish, versions of the word were also borrowed into Irish, so that we have the words buirg (borough), buirgcheantar (borough) and buirgéiseach (bourgeois) in modern Irish dictionaries. However, the word buirg is not used ‘figuratively’ to mean ‘a town or small city’ in Irish, as Cassidy claims. This is simply fantasy.

Cassidese Glossary – Bunk, Bunkum

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.

The late Daniel Cassidy in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the American slang expression bunkum comes from the Irish word buanchumadh.

There are two problems with this. Firstly, the real origin of bunkum is well known. Felix Walker, a 19th-century congressman from North Carolina, whose district included Buncombe County, made a long-winded speech during the discussions that led to the 1820 passage of the Missouri Compromise. As he was filibustering away, several people asked him to stop but he carried on, stating that the people of his district expected it, and that he was bound to make a speech for Buncombe.

Thus, buncombe or bunkum came to mean foolish talk. Grant Barrett deals with this in his excellent post at http://grantbarrett.com/humdinger-of-a-bad-irish-scholar.

The second problem is that the word buanchumadh doesn’t exist. It isn’t in any dictionary or corpus. I have never heard it used or seen it in print. Furthermore, it looks and sounds odd. Why? I have mentioned before how Cassidy combined things in odd ways because he had no knowledge of how the language is really used. This is a perfect example. In general terms, buan is used with words which describe states, not actions. Buanghrá is eternal love, buanchónaí is permanent abode, and buanfhírinne is an eternal truth. But cumadh is an action, not a state, and actions tend to use the prefix síor– rather than –buan. You could say bíonn siad ag síorchumadh scéalta (they are perpetually making up stories) but buanchumadh is just weird.

Cassidy pretends that he is an expert on Irish and that he can confidently state that words not found in any dictionary are real: If it were a long made-up story, one would say in Irish: níl ann ach buanchumadh, it is just a “long, endless invention or tale”. This is completely untrue. In reality, there are a number of ways of talking about a shaggy-dog story or long story in Irish. The word fadscéal is defined by Ó Dónaill as ‘a long-drawn-out story’.  There is scéal i mbarr bata (a story in the top of a stick), thought to be a reference to one of Colm Cille’s prophecies or the ancient custom of carrying messages in a forked stick. There is also the lovely expression scéal ó Shamhain go Bealtaine, which means ‘a story from November to May’, which happens to be the winter period when people gathered in céilí houses to tell stories and sing and chatter.

Finally, Cassidy uses the reference to Buncombe County (he regards the Felix Walker story as a shaggy-dog story) to talk about the Gaelic influence on Black American speech. In doing so, he once again reveals his total ignorance of the Irish language. He says that the word tuig is pronounced dig, which is wrong. It is the question form An dtuigeann that is pronounced with a d. He also quotes the expression Tuig é nó ná. This is incorrect. Tuig é nó ná tuig is a common Irish expression (https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/tuig). Cassidy’s version is just nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Bun

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.

According to Daniel Cassidy, the expression ‘to have a bun on’ (=to be slightly drunk) comes from the Irish word bun, which means a base. (For the full range of meanings of this word, check out this dictionary at https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/bun)

You will notice that to be slightly drunk is not one of these meanings. In fact, if you wanted to say ‘slightly drunk’ in Irish, you would say that someone is ar bogmheisce or meidhreach. While the origin of this English expression is unknown, it obviously doesn’t come from Irish.