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.
Another oft-quoted claim of Cassidy’s, which has absolutely no basis in fact, is the notion that crony can be traced back to an Irish phrase comh-roghna. Cassidy says that this word means “fellow chosen-ones, mutual-sweethearts, fellow favourites, close friends, mutual pals”.
This is totally false. While comh– exists and rogha/roghanna (roghna is the older version of the plural of rogha, roghanna the modern spelling) exist there is no evidence in the Irish language of either roghanna or comhroghanna being used to mean friends or pals.
The words comhrogha and comhroghanna are not even in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, though the word comhrogha has been used sporadically in the language to express the abstract senses of rival, alternative or choice.
Here are some examples of the use of comhrogha from the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language:
murab comhrogha leo maraon = unless it would be the joint choice of both of them
atáid dhá theach má [sic] comhrogha = they are two houses to be chosen between (i.e. heaven and hell
níl le do chlú comhrogha = your reputation has no rival
dá gcur i gcomhrogha = being compared
dá gcuirfí i gcomhrogha a bháis nó = if it was a matter of alternatives of death or martyrdom
an comhrogha thuas = the preceding example (comparison of two couplets, Bardic syntactic tracts
agus de chomhroghna curadh = and of the finest of warriors
The word comhrogha has also been used occasionally in modern Irish in general contexts to mean alternative, in financial and economic contexts to mean ‘joint option’ and in betting to mean ‘popular favourite’.
It should also be pointed out that comhroghanna (koh-ray-anna) doesn’t sound much like croney and it is plural – loanwords tend to be borrowed in their most basic, singular form.
Back in the real world, crony is widely believed to be Cambridge university slang, derived from Greek chronios, meaning long-lasting, as in ‘old boy’. It first occurs in Samuel Pepys’s diaries and Pepys was a Cambridge graduate.