Monthly Archives: April 2019

Cassidese Glossary – Buckaroo

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.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the term buckaroo, an American term for a cowboy, comes from Irish:

“Buckaroo, n., a cowboy, a cattle drover, a roving, wild rogue of the western plains. Buckaroo is said by all Anglo-American dictionaries to be from bakhara, a “corruption” of vaquero.

Bocaí rua (pron. bucæ rúŏ), n., a fierce buck, a rough wild rogue, a wild playboy. Boc, bocaí, n., a playboy, a scamp, a buck, a rogue. Rua, adj., red-haired, wild, fierce, tough, strong.”

With Cassidy’s ‘research’, we always have to go back to the original sources to see what they really say. Firstly, there is no doubt about the real origin of buckaroo. It derives from the Spanish word vaquero, meaning a cowboy. It is first recorded in English in the form bakhara in the year 1827. It is believed that its transformation into buckaroo occurred under the influence of the English word buck.

When Cassidy first unveiled his etymology for this word in 2005 on an Irish learners’ forum (The Daltaí Boards), it was treated with a healthy scepticism. One post mentioned the number of Spanish words among cowboys like lasso and lariat and rodeo and bronco and calaboose.

Cassidy answered this with the following: “Why is vaquero preferable to boc rua or bocai/ rua? There wasw a large and significant Irish (speaking) presence in both Texas and New Orleans as early as mid 18th century. Why wouldn’t there be a significant Irish language contribution to the gambling and cattle ranching “slang” of the region? Vaquero is the accepted etymology of buckaroo. But why is boc rua or bocaí rua for buckaroo not at least a humble contender?”

Back in the real world, of course, Cassidy simply looked through a dictionary, found the words bocaí and rua and put them together. Here are the real definitions of bocaí and rua from Ó Dónaill’s dictionary:

bocaí, m. (gs. ~, pl. -aithe). Playboy; scamp.

rua3, a3. 1. Red(-haired). Gruaig ~, red hair. Duine ~, red-haired person. 2. Reddish-brown, russet, copper brown. Capall ~, chestnut horse. Bonn ~, copper coin. Ball ~, rusty spot; scorched patch. An Mhuir R~, the Red Sea. S.a. arán, bruth12, cailleach 13, caoch2, cianóg, feamainn, lacha, lionn 1, madra 1(b), pingin 1, raithneach, rí15. 3. Wild, fierce; rough, strong. Oíche ~, wild night; night of fierce brawling. Gaoth ~ Mhárta, wild, withering, March wind. Sruth ~ rabharta, strong spring-tide flow. Cath ~, fierce, bloody, battle.

In other words, bocaí rua would mean ‘red-haired scamp’ or ‘wild scamp’. Yes, that’s so much more convincing as an origin than the Spanish for cowboy.

It doesn’t help matters that Cassidy forgets that bocaí is a singular noun and not the plural of boc: ‘Bocaí rua were the wild Gaelic “bucks” of the American prairie.’

Finally, under this heading Cassidy takes the word bugaroch, which Francis Grose gives in his excellent Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue of 1785 as an Irish word meaning comely and handsome, as ‘perhaps derived from Irish bocaí ruthagach, or a dashing, impulsive young buck’. This is a made-up noun phrase and the meaning makes little sense. The most likely explanation is that this word is the Irish bogúrach which means soft, maudlin, generous (according to Dinneen, bogúir means liberality). Grose was not Irish, though he died here and was buried here, in Drumcondra – he might just have known that the word had a broadly positive meaning and decided that it referred to physical beauty.

Cassidese Glossary – Buccaneer

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.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word buccaneer comes from the supposed ‘Irish’ phrase boc aniar, meaning ‘a buck from the west’. There is no evidence for an Irish origin for buccaneer and the phrase boc aniar was invented by Cassidy.

Cassidy pretends that the origins of buccaneer are uncertain in order to make his claim a little more credible.

“All Anglo-American dictionaries derive the word buccaneer from an obscure French word boucanie [sic] meaning “one who hunts wild oxen” and cooks their meat on a boucan, or a barbecue, said to be from an unidentified Caribbean Native American word.  (E.B. Taylor, Early History of Man, 261; OED.)

Buccaneer as buckaneer is first found in the canting dictionaries of the 1690s. “Buckaneers, West-Indian Pirates … also the Rude Rabble in Jamaica.” (B.E.’s The Canting Crew Dictionary, London, 1690.)

In reality, boucan is first recorded in French in the year 1578 in the book Histoire d’un Voyage fait en la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Ammerique, where it is described as a “gril sur lequel les Indiens d’Amérique fumaient la viande” (grill on which the American Indians smoked meat).

The term boucanier is first used in French in the year 1654, where its meaning is described as “aventurier qui chassait les bœufs sauvages aux Antilles” (an adventurer who hunted wild oxen in the Antilles). From the start, there is plentiful evidence that people in the Caribbean believed that there was a link between boucanier and boucan (or bucanero and bucan in Spanish). There is no evidence of an Irish link and certainly no evidence that anyone was ever described as a boc aniar.

Cassidese Glossary – Bucking

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.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the word bucking comes from the Irish word buachan, meaning to win.

“Bucking, buckin’; bucking the “tiger.” To play against a faro game; to go up against, or defeat (someone or something). Origin obscure. (OED.)

Buachan, Buchan (ar) (pron. búŏċan’, búŏċan’ar), v., gain, winning (a victory), defeating, overcoming, going up against. Buachan ar dhuine (búŏċan’ ar ghinǝ), to prevail over someone; buachan ar rud, to defeat something.”

Let’s just take a look at these claims objectively. Firstly, the claim that the OED says that bucking is a word of obscure origin seems to be untrue but because Cassidy does not cite a year of publication or an edition or give a direct quotation, there is no way of knowing. Certainly, the online OED states quite clearly that the verb buck comes from the noun buck meaning a male animal: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/buck

This is the buck of bucking broncos and bucking the trend and bucking the odds and bucking the tiger. It is an English word and makes complete sense with its given meanings of (of a horse) to perform a buck, (of a vehicle) make sudden jerky movement, oppose or resist (something oppressive or inevitable) ‘the shares bucked the market trend’.

It’s the word buck meaning a dollar that is described as origin obscure in the OED.

As for the Irish, once again we have the peculiar phoney system of transcription invented by Cassidy. In reality, buachan is pronounced roughly as booa-han, which would not become bucking in English. Also, the n’ of Cassidy’s transcription shows that Cassidy did not understand Irish phonology. This is used in Irish phonology to indicate a palatal phoneme. The n of buachan is not palatal.

There are also some strange things in Cassidy’s definitions of the Irish word. Ó Dónaill defines it as 1. Win, gain. 2. (With ar) Defeat, overcome. 3. (With ag, le) Succeed.

The meaning of ‘to go up against’ seems to be pure invention. It is not from any Irish dictionary.

Why does this matter? Well, as is clear from one of Cassidy’s examples below, if the Irish word means defeat or overcome rather than go up against, this is not appropriate for the meaning of the English verb to buck:

“… some people thought we were loco to buck the Tiger.”

In other words, you wouldn’t say people thought you were mad for defeating the system. If you defeated the system, you won. Cassidy’s fake definition of ‘to go up against’ is necessary for the claim of an Irish origin from buachan to have any credibility at all, which is why he invented it.

To summarise, the verb buck comes from the English word buck meaning a male animal. It has no connection to the Irish verb buachan which is not a good match in terms of meaning or pronunciation.

Cassidese Glossary – Buck

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 word buck meaning a male animal or a party animal is very similar in sound and meaning to the Irish boc, with a similar set of meanings. Some scholars regard boc as being a borrowing from Old English, though there are similar words in other Celtic languages. However, whatever the relationship between the English word buck and the Irish word boc, there is no doubt that the English word buck goes back to a Middle English word bucke and then to an Old English word bucca. In other words, it has been in English for so long that it is very unlikely to be a borrowing from Irish, and it has cognates in other Germanic languages which make a direct Celtic origin improbable.

Cassidy gets around these inconvenient facts by taking a quotation from MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary of 1896 and misinterpreting it:

MacBain’s dictionary derives buck from boc, and the Gaelic languages, and thence to a Sanskrit root: “boc, a buck, Irish boc, he-goat, Old Irish bocc, Welsh bwch, Cornish boch, Breton bouch’h, bukko-s; Sanskrit bukka, goat.” (MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary, 1896, [1982].)

Just look again at the quotation given by Cassidy above. MacBain categorically does not derive buck from boc. He is deriving the modern Gaelic and Irish word boc from Old Irish and comparing this to a Sanskrit root. (Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-European language – it provides cognates of other Indo-European languages. It is not Proto-Indo-European and Celtic and Germanic languages do not derive their vocabulary or roots ‘from’ Sanskrit.) MacBain is not saying anything about the relationship between boc and buck beyond that buck is the English translation of boc. The clue’s in the name. MacBain’s dictionary is an etymological dictionary of Gaelic – it’s not about the etymology of English words.

Cassidese Glossary – Bubba

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.

 

Bubba and its shortened form bub are believed to be 19th century American English terms representing a childish mispronunciation of brother. (Though there are other theories – the Anglo-Romani linguist Ian Hancock claimed an African origin through Gullah, though this theory has not met with general acceptance.)

Cassidy claims that the bubba of the poor American south and a 17th century slang term bubber meaning ‘a drinker’ are the same, thus defining the term bubba as meaning ‘a thief, a trickster, a drinker’. In fact, if you look at cant dictionaries, bubber is defined as ‘a large drinking bowl; a drinker’ and there is no logical reason to link bubba with the earlier cant term.

Cassidy derives bub and bubba (and bubber) from the Irish words bob (meaning ‘a trick’) and its derivative bobaire, (meaning ‘a trickster’, though Cassidy claims that it figuratively means ‘a wise guy’.). As these Irish expressions have nothing to do with the meanings of bubba or of bubber, there is no reason to suppose a connection.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Brisk

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.

Daniel Cassidy claimed that the English word brisk derives from the Irish briosc, the primary meaning of which is brittle. It does have some other meanings, such as brisk and lively, but these are probably meanings borrowed from English. The usual claim about the English word brisk is that it derives from the French word brusque, as in this item from Etymonline:

https://www.etymonline.com/word/brisk

This seems the most likely explanation. There is no evidence for an Irish origin.

Cassidese Glossary – Brat

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 quotes the Oxford English Dictionary in relation to this word, though most of the time he claims that the OED and other professional lexicographers and linguists are wrong. The word brat means a badly-behaved child. It is believed to have developed from a word meaning a rag or makeshift garment (compare English toe-rag), which is probably derived from Irish or some other Celtic language. In Irish, the word brat means a cloth or covering. A brat urláir is a floor covering or carpet, if there is a snowfall the land is faoi bhrat sneachta (under a covering of snow), and the traditional Irish mantle called a brat was once a major export of the country.

Cassidese Glossary – Brag

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.

Daniel Cassidy claims that the English word brag, meaning to boast, comes from the Irish word bréag, meaning a lie.

According to Cassidy, “The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology speculates that the word brag might possibly have an Irish origin, though inexplicably links it to a Celtic word meaning trousers: ‘brag … of uncertain origin; possible sources include Gaullish [sic] or Celtic ‘braca,’ (a) kind of trousers …’ Barnhart also cites Provencal, French (Swiss dialect), Scandinavian and Old Icelandic as other possible sources of brag.”

I don’t have a copy of Barnhart, so I can’t confirm or refute Cassidy’s interpretation of what it says about this word here, though I suspect that Cassidy has doctored the facts to suit his argument.

Anyway, the facts about the word brag are well-known and beyond doubt. The verb brag is well attested in English as far back as the 14th century, which means that it didn’t come from bréag and has nothing to do with Irish slang in America. For example, the Michigan Middle English Dictionary has this, written around 1400 in the poem Piers Plowman:

He bosteth and braggeth with many bolde othes. (He boasts and brags with many bold oaths.)

The ultimate origin of this verb brag is unknown, though possible sources are a Middle English adjective meaning proud or ostentatious which is probably of Celtic origin or an Old Norse word bragr “the best, the toast (of anything).”

The Irish bréag means ‘a lie’. It doesn’t mean the same thing as bragging or boasting. There are a number of expressions for bragging in Irish: ag déanamh mórtais, ag braigeáil (a loan word from English brag!), maíomh a dhéanamh as rud, ag déanamh a mhór díot féin and half a dozen others.

In addition to brag, English also has a word braggard or braggart, which comes from a French word braguer, which does (probably) come from a word of Celtic origin meaning breeches. (I suspect that the omitted piece in Cassidy’s treatment of Barnhart above probably includes the end of the piece on brag and the beginning of the piece about braggart. Thus Cassidy’s truncated version suggests that the reference to trousers refers to the verb brag, not to the noun braggart.) In spite of the fact that braggart and brag are related in meaning and similar in sound, they are apparently not connected at all etymologically. Coincidences like this are more common than you might think – the best example is probably English dear and Irish daor, almost identical in sound, both meaning expensive, but completely unrelated.

Cassidese Glossary – Brace

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.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, says that a brace game is a crooked gambling game. He claims that it comes from the Irish phrase beir as.

I don’t know where brace comes from in this case, though the strongest suggestion seems to be that it comes from a kind of brace or lever used to fix the device known as a case keeper in the card game Faro.

It doesn’t come from beir as, which is a dictionary entry, not a phrase. Beir is an imperative (an order or instruction) and as means ‘out of’. So it means, if it means anything, ‘take out of’.

Cassidy provides no evidence for his meaning of crooked. Nobody has ever used cluiche beir as to mean anything in Irish, let alone a crooked game. Here are some genuine uses of beir as:

Beir as é, take it away.

Beir as tú! Go away! You don’t mean it!

Rug siad as an oíche mar sin, in that way they passed the night.

Ag breith as, making off.

Dá mbeadh breith as dá rogha agam, if I could pick and choose.

Cassidese Glossary – Bozark

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 the word bozark is a carnival term for a wrestling or boxing match between women. He claims that the word derives from basóg, diminutive of bas meaning palm of the hand.

Firstly, bozark looks to me like a portmanteau word combining Ozark and berserk. In other words, mountain women going crazy.

Secondly, basóg is a pre-reform variant of the modern boiseog (pronounced bwishogue). Which version sounds more credible for a savage fight between carnival women, a word which implies mountainy women going berserk, or an Irish word for a slap around the face?