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.
Apparently, a bird was once used in American slang to mean something excellent. Cassidy traces this to the Irish word beart, which, according to his definition (he gives no references to any dictionaries or sources), means:
“A great deed, an admirable feat, an exploit, an action, a plan; a prank, a trick, a joke, a gag, a spoof, sport.’
According to Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English dictionary, beart means a bundle or parcel, or a lot as in ‘a job lot’; a garment; a cast or move in a game; a shift or plan; a proceeding, action or transaction; a berth (of a ship).
According to Dinneen’s dictionary, beart can mean an act, a deed; behaviour; a game or trick (at cards), a move in a game, an appointment, a situation, a bunch or heap (of the hair, etc.); a bundle (of rushes, straw, etc.), gear, apparatus, paraphernalia.
There is no reason to suppose that there is any connection between ‘a bird’ and the Irish beart.