Cassidese Glossary – Croak, Croaked, Croaker

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 defines the slang term croak as ‘to murder, to kill; to die; to hang.’
This is an odd definition. The fact is that croak begins in Middle English with the meaning of the sound made by a raven or a frog. Then around the early years of the 19th century, it acquired the meaning of ‘to die’. This comes from the sound that a dying person makes which is known as the death rattle in English or glothar an bháis in Irish. At some later time, this verb became transitive and so you could croak someone else or kill them. From this, croaker came to be a slang term for a doctor from the late 19th century. To die is still the main meaning – some definitions do not even mention the meaning of killing. As far as I know, hang is not a recorded meaning of croak. So, why did Cassidy distort the meanings in this way?

Cassidy claims that the slang word croak has nothing to do with the sound made by frogs. Instead, he claims that it derives from the Irish word croch (verbal noun crochadh). This is the Irish word for hang. This explains Cassidy’s adjustment of the meanings. If croak means die, then a verb meaning hang is not a match. If its primary meaning is kill, then croch is a better match, though not a perfect one.

From the point of view of sound, croch is not a great match. You can find sound files for it here: https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/hang

It is certainly a far worse match in terms of meaning and sound than the English word croak.

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