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.
In slang, a boiler room is the nerve centre or HQ of a racket like illegal gambling. It is perfectly understandable as a metaphor. Like water in a central heating system, all the money comes in and goes out of this central point, which is a hotbed of activity.
According to Cassidy, it comes from bailitheoir, meaning collector. This is very improbable. There is no evidence of an Irish connection to this term and the English explanation makes perfect sense. Interestingly, bailiú is the same word that gave us ballyhoo, according to Cassidy. So in one case, the Irish verb bailigh becomes boil and in another it becomes bally. Why would this happen?
Another problem is that I have not been able to locate any reference to the criminal type of boiler room before the mid-1970s, which seems a little late for a large Irish influence on American slang.
Finally, Cassidy cites a phrase fiach bailitheoir, which he says means debt-collector. Anyone with any Irish will realise that this is nonsense. The collector comes first and the thing collected comes after it in the genitive case in Irish. In other words, it’s a bailitheoir fiach. Once again, this demonstrates Cassidy’s total ignorance of the Irish language.