Cassidese Glossary – Galluses, Gallus

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 another instance where Daniel Cassidy got it massively wrong in his bizarre work of fake scholarship, How The Irish Invented Slang.

There is a common word in Scots (the Lowland Scots version of English, not Scots Gaelic) which is also found in northern dialects of English, the word gallus. According to the experts, this word is related to the standard English ‘gallows’. It is used in the plural as galluses in Scotland and northern England as the equivalent of ‘braces’ in standard British English or ‘suspenders’ in American English. The word gallus is also used in Scotland as an adjective which originally meant ‘pertaining to the gallows’ (a bit like the English ‘a gallows bird’, a criminal), but which later meant ‘daring’ or ‘cheeky’ or ‘impressive’. It is still very much alive in Scottish speech and is found in other varieties of English.

The word gealaisí in Irish means ‘braces’/’suspenders’ and is a borrowing of galluses. We know that it came from Britain to Ireland rather than the other way round because galluses is found in both Scotland and England and has a recognised etymology (galluses=gallows) while gealaisí doesn’t. Cassidy tries to claim a tenuous link with the Irish gealas meaning ‘brightness’ or ‘ray’ (from geal meaning bright) but fails to explain how this could become an adjective or how the meanings of gealas could give rise to gallus or galluses, or indeed how you can explain an Irish word becoming so widespread in northern England.

He also quotes a piece from The Mulligan Guard where both galluses (braces) and gallus (daring) are used but tries to pretend that both of these words are Irish rather than Scots-influenced English. The claim for gallus is particularly weak because gealas is a noun, not an adjective.

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