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 doggone is of unknown origin. This is untrue. The dictionaries are agreed that dog-gone or doggone is a 19th century Americanism and that it is a minced oath, a disguised blasphemy. The Oxford English Dictionary says it is ‘generally taken as a deformation of the profane God damn.’ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) says that ‘doggone’ is an ‘alteration of the Scots dagone,’ which is in turn an ‘alteration of goddamn.’ Merriam-Webster says that it is ‘a euphemism for God damn.’
Furthermore, God damn and doggone are used in exactly the same way. Sometimes they are an exclamation, God damn it! (Doggone it!) What have you done? and sometimes as an adjective, Just take the goddamn (doggone) money already!
Cassidy claims that this derives from the Irish word dogairne and/or the Scottish Gaelic word dògan.
Dogairne is a rare word derived from docair (more usually deacair in modern Irish), which means ‘hard, difficult’. Dogairne is a noun, and is defined as ‘A gross, crude, person or thing.’ Doggone, of course, is not used as a noun. You can’t say ‘My cousin is a total doggone.’
As for dògan, this is a Scottish Gaelic exclamation. The Scottish Gaelic dictionaries make it quite clear that this is a borrowing from doggone or from the Scots equivalent. Note also that Cassidy once again betrayed his total ignorance of the Gaelic languages, as he wrote it as dógan. Anyone who knew the slightest thing about Irish and Gaelic would know that Scottish Gaelic always uses grave accents (the ones that slope back) while Irish always uses acute accents (sloping forward).
It is also an indication of Cassidy’s incompetence that he seems to think that giving two derivations strengthens his case. Of course, in reality, the fact that Cassidy provides two completely separate words in different languages just serves to show how easy it is to find a spurious Gaelic derivation, and how worthless his attempts at etymology were.