Monthly Archives: June 2019

Cassidese Glossary – Geezer

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.

Geezer is a slang term for an old man and according to Cassidy, it comes from Irish gaoiseach or gaosmhar, which (again, according to him) means ‘wise person’. Gaoiseach and gaosmhar both come from the noun gaois, meaning wisdom. They are not nouns and they do not mean ‘wise person’. They are adjectives meaning wise. You could say someone was a fear gaosmhar (wise man) or a duine gaosmhar (wise person) or indeed a bean ghaosmhar (a wise woman). Not that they were a gaosmhar.

Leaving aside the fact that it’s the wrong part of speech, the word gaosmhar implies respect for someone’s wisdom. The word geezer is slightly insulting and dismissive and implies no respect at all (except in contexts like ‘diamond geezer’). How would you express geezer in Irish? Seanlead, perhaps, or seanfhondúir, or seanduine, or seanbhuachaill, depending on the dialect or the person or the wind direction … Not gaosmhar, certainly.

Although geezer now refers to an old man, it originally meant an eccentric person of any age, a person with strange views. And its origin is widely accepted as being from guiser, a contraction of disguiser, a person who dressed up in a bizarre custume to hide their identity, as mummers or wren-boys do as they go from house to house collecting money, or kids do when they trick-or-treat at Halloween.

Here’s an amusing treatment of the real facts about the origins of this word:

http://www.word-detective.com/2008/11/geezer/

Cassidese Glossary – Geek

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.

Geek is defined by Cassidy as a fairground term for a long-haired person, which is pushing it – the geek was frequently the ‘wild man’ in a fairground (think of Sideshow Bob on the Simpsons) but this seems to be a relatively late meaning. Cassidy needs to emphasise the hairiness of the geek because his Irish candidate is an adjective meaning hairy, ciabhach:

Ciabhach (pron. kíahaċ), adj., long-haired, hairy, bushy; dishevelled, unkempt; fig. a long-haired, bushy-looking person. Ciabhacht (pron. kíŏaċt) n., (someone or something) having long hair. (Dineen, 187; Ó Dónaill, 223)

In reality, ciabhach means long-haired. It cannot be used as a noun, and while ciabhacht is a noun, it is an abstract noun meaning hairiness. It cannot be used to mean someone who is hairy.

Back in the real word, geek is from a Germanic word meaning a fool, geck, which was actually used in the 18th century in the Austro-Hungarian empire for people in travelling freak shows

Cassidese Glossary – Gee Whillikers

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.

This is one of earliest manifestations of a family of minced oaths based on ‘Jesus’. This, in the form of Gee Whilikens, is found from the 1850s and is originally associated with south-east England.

Cassidy ignores these facts and claims that it comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase Dia Thoilleachas, which he claims is an exclamation meaning ‘God’s Will!’ There is a word toileachas (with one l), which is given as meaning will in Dinneen’s dictionary, though it is not in Ó Dónaill. It is also found in Scottish Gaelic. So Dia exists and toileachas exists. Could the phrase Dia Thoileachas exist with the meaning God’s Will?

No. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of this phrase, and it makes no sense in terms of Irish grammar. The Irish for God’s Will is ‘toil Dé’. You could, presumably, say ‘toileachas Dé’ (though the word toileachas is uncommon and obscure), but how would that give Gee Whillickers rather than Whillickers Gee?

Cassidese Glossary – Gee Whiz

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.

Again, this is a minced oath that is used as a version of Jesus. Apparently Gee Whiz is attested from 1871. It should be noted that Jeez is a common variant of Gee.

Cassidy claims that this comes from Dia Uas, which, according to Cassidy, means Great God. This is a complete fabrication. The phrase Dia Uas does not exist in the Irish language. The word uas only exists as a prefix in Modern Irish, as you can see here: https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/uas

 

Cassidese Glossary – Gee

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 Gee used as an exclamation is certainly what is known as a ‘minced oath’. In other words, it is a way of avoiding a taboo word by saying something that slightly resembles the offensive term. I was under the misapprehension that this is short for God, because G is the first letter, but the overwhelming body of opinion has it that this is short for Jesus: https://www.etymonline.com/word/gee

Cassidy thinks this comes from the Irish Dia, which is pronounced with a j sound in the North, as jeea. There is no evidence for this and Gee is exactly like the first syllable of Jesus. Furthermore, Irish speakers tend to say a Dhia (the vocative – oh God!) which is pronounced a yeea, rather than ‘Dia!’

 

Cassidese Glossary – Gazoonie

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 gazoonie was apparently originally a fairground or carny term for a young, inexperienced worker. A search on Google shows that in some circles it now means a young man in a gay relationship with an older man.

Cassidy claims that this derives from an Irish word, garsún, meaning a boy. There is nothing inherently improbable about this. The word garsún does exist and it does mean boy.

However, this is not enough to convince a genuine scholar. For one thing, garsún may be an Irish word, but it’s not of Irish origin. Garsún derives, of course, from Norman French. Anyone who knows a little French will recognise the word garçon which means both boy and waiter. Cassidy actually mentions garçon and the Latin word garcio from which it derives, but only with cf., which means compare. He doesn’t state that the Irish word is a loanword.

It entered Irish in two forms, as garsún and as gasúr. The dialects of Connemara and of Ulster use gasúr (though the meaning is different in the two areas – gasúr is a boy in Ulster but a child of either gender in Connemara). In Munster they say garsún. It isn’t used in Irish outside Munster, to the best of my knowledge. In Hiberno-English, the word has also been borrowed as gossoon. Wiktionary also claims that it exists in the form gazoon in Ulster, but this is not in the OED Ulster  Dictionary. Its source seems to be a piece of rather stage-Irish dialogue from a travel book by an American called Ellberg, published in the 1930s, (say this is no place for a gazoon that wants to see Father O’Houlihan before he kicks the bucket,” and Pat strode off with the subtleness that bespoke youth and fine trim), so I am quite suspicious about gazoon being a real word in Ulster dialect.

The problem with Cassidy’s claim is this. How can we be sure it didn’t come directly from French? There are plenty of French Canadians and there were plenty of French speakers in places like Maine and Louisiana. Cassidy doesn’t try to exclude the French origin from the equation. A real researcher would need to do this, and they would also have to make sure that the word doesn’t have an equivalent in some other Romance language, such as Italian. (The official Italian for a boy is ragazzo, sometimes shortened to gazzo, but there are lots of dialects in Italy and carnival slang is known to contain a large Italian element through the jargon known as Polari.)

In other words, it’s entirely possible that gazoonie comes from garsún or indeed from Hiberno-English gossoon. But it is also just as likely that it comes directly from French or from some other Romance language and a proper researcher would have checked that out before claiming this as a certainty.

Cassidese Glossary – Gawk, Gawky

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.

Nobody knows where gawk and gawky come from. Its original meaning was “awkward, ungainly,” 1759, and this seems to come from gawk hand, which meant “left hand” (1703) in certain dialects of English. There is a universal association between left-handedness and clumsiness in languages all over the world.

Cassidy, of course, claims that gawk comes from the Irish language:

Gawk, n., a young awkward person, an immature, clumsy, person.

Géag (pron. g’æg, g’íŏg), n., a youth; a young person; a young woman; fig., someone immature and awkward; a young scion; an offspring; a limb, a branch.

Firstly, let’s just dissect Cassidy’s account of the definitions of the Irish words géag. Here’s what Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English dictionary has to say:

géag, f. (gs. géige, npl. ~a, gpl. ~). 1. Branch, limb. (a)~a duine, a person’s limbs. ~ láimhe, choise, arm, leg. Do ghéaga a shíneadh (uait), to stretch (out) one’s limbs. S.a. beatha11(a).(b)~ crainn, branch, bough, of tree. ~a a chur uaidh, (of tree) to branch. (c)~ den mhuir, arm of the sea. (d)Mec. E:~ (deirice), (derrick-)jib. (e)(Of starfish) Ray. (f)(Of hair) Tress. 2. Fig:(a) Genealogical branch. ~a ginealaigh, (branches of) family-tree. (b) Offshoot, offspring; scion, (young) person. ~a Chathaoir Mhóir, (the various branches of) the descendants of Cathaoir Mór. ~ den uaisle, scion of the nobility. An ghéag gheal, the beautiful youth, maiden. Is olc an ghéag é, he is a bad lot. (c) Image of girl (made for festival).

So much for géag having the primary meaning of a young person or someone immature or awkward! Still, perhaps Cassidy got this definition from Dinneen’s early 20th century Irish-English dictionary. Here’s the entry for géag from Dinneen:

Géag, -éige, pl.-a, f., a branch, a limb, a member; butt of a branch; the hand, the arm; a branch of family descent; a person; a scion; a young woman, a youth; an image of a girl made on Patron day (Aug. 10) and the May festival …

In other words, both these dictionaries agree that the primary meaning of géag is a limb, an arm or leg. It also has a subsidiary meaning of a branch on a family tree, a scion, a young person. The ‘young person’ meaning is poetic and emphasises beauty and elegance, not ungainliness. Cassidy’s version of this is typically deceitful and lacking in accuracy.

And then, of course, géag is pronounced gyayg, like yay sandwiched between two hard Gs. It sounds nothing like gawk.