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 etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, introduces his treatment of the word chuck as follows:
Chuck, v., chucking, vn., to throw, especially to throw or pitch a ball; tossing, discarding. Uncertain origin or onomatopoeic. (Chapman, 71; OED)
Cassidy’s claim is that “The Irish teilg (pron. chel’әg, throw) is spelled “chock” when it gets tossed into English slang in the 16th century.”
Cassidy’s ‘system’ of referencing as shown above is completely inadequate. Cassidy gives information about the meaning and possible origins of the word. Then, he gives two different sources, Chapman and the OED. There is no way of knowing which pieces of information come from which books, or indeed if all the ‘information’ comes from either of them. It was a standard practice of Cassidy’s to slip in his own inventions in these multi-source definitions.
Although Cassidy’s book has no bibliography, I would assume Chapman is probably Robert Chapman of the Dictionary of American Slang. The OED does not say that this word is uncertain origin. It states that chuck is probably from the Old French chuquer, later choquer, “to knock, to bump”. While this is not completely certain, it’s a reasonable guess. It was in Cassidy’s interests to pretend that there is no other possible origin because of the weakness of his own suggestion.
Another problem with Cassidy’s Irish origin is that the word chuck was first used at the end of the 16th century in English. Cassidy likes to claim that many words were borrowed this early from Irish but the only evidence for this is Cassidy’s own discredited words like dock from tobhach or queer from corr. In reality, there seems to have been little Irish influence on English as early as this (apart from words relating to warfare like kern and gallowglass and bonnaught, which the English had good reason to learn).
However, another problem is that teilg doesn’t sound anything like chuck. It is pronounced something like chelleg in Ulster dialect while in the south it would be tellig. (You can find sound files for the three main dialects on focloir.ie: http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/cast#cast__12)
Teilg does primarily mean to hurl or throw in modern Irish. It originally meant to release, to throw, to shoot a bow, to give birth, to shed tears. You can find a full list of meanings under telcud at the online dictionary eDIL (http://www.dil.ie/search?search_in=headword&q=telcud).
In other words, not only is Cassidy’s claim unlikely, the French choquer origin makes a lot more sense.