Cassidese Glossary – Flush

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.

According to the experts in etymology, this word dates back at least four hundred years in English. The verb flush (as in flush the toilet) seems to be etymologically related to the adjectival meanings of flush (in alignment, not sticking out; rich, well-off). The idea is that a river when it is full of water is full up to the banks, just as someone who is well off is flush with money.

Cassidy disagrees with this derivation. He prefers to see the word flush coming from the Irish word flúirse (floorsha), which means ‘an abundance’.

This is another example of the problems associated with the process of transmission from one language to another. When words are genuinely transmitted from Irish to English, they are clearly the result of code-switching, and the word from the other language slots neatly into place in a sentence in the new language.

Is amadán cruthanta é an fear sin.

That man is a complete ommadawn.

This could not be the case with flúirse. Flúirse means abundant. You can say He was flush with money in English but try using flúirse to translate that and it doesn’t work. (The asterisk is a linguistic convention meaning that the sentence is ill-formed or impossible.)

*Bhí sé flúirse le hairgead.

Even if you use the adjectival form flúirseach instead, it still doesn’t work:

*Bhí sé flúirseach le hairgead.

The money is what is abundant, not the person. There is absolutely no evidence linking the words flush in English and flúirse in Irish.

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